News / Europe

Tymoshenko’s Trials Cloud Ukraine’s Democratic Future

James Brooke
KYIV— Ukraine has started a 90-day campaign before elections for parliament on October 28. But Yulia Tymoshenko, the nation’s most popular opposition politician, can’t run.

Tymoshenko, who lost the 2010 presidential elections by only three percentage points, has been in jail for the past year.
 
VOA visited Tymoshenko’s fortress-like party headquarters in Kyiv and found her 32-year-old daughter Yevhenia sitting in the same chair, in the same office, where her mother had given us an interview 18 months earlier.

Yevhenia Carr, daughter of former Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in Kyiv, October 13, 2011.Yevhenia Carr, daughter of former Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in Kyiv, October 13, 2011.
x
Yevhenia Carr, daughter of former Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in Kyiv, October 13, 2011.
Yevhenia Carr, daughter of former Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in Kyiv, October 13, 2011.
“What is going on is a build up of dictatorship in the Ukraine,” says Yevhenia. “Everybody feels it, feels this fear, this pressure of this machine that cannot be stopped from the inside, by Ukrainian forces.”

Her mother is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abusing her authority in 2009, when she was Ukraine’s prime minister. She is to be back in court on August 14 to face 15-year-old embezzlement charges. After that, prosecutors promise a murder charge.

The stress has landed Ukraine’s golden-haired opposition leader in a hospital with back pains and skin rashes. Her daughter Yevhenia left her life and husband in London to come home to Kyiv to try to win her mother’s release.

“My mother is in a hospital controlled by the regime,” she says.  “Doctors are under pressure, as well as prosecutors and judges.  And we fear for her life because every day there she’s under their control, and they can do anything to her. That is why they don’t want to let her go. They want to keep her under control, not being able to speak out.”
 
  • Supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko take part in a rally in a tent camp in central Kyiv, Ukraine, May 30, 2012.
  • Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite visits imprisoned former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, May 11, 2012.
  • Supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko take part in a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 27, 2012.
  • Riot police block supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 5, 2011.
  • Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko greets supporters during a rally on the occasion of the 169th birth anniversary Ukrainian poet, artist and humanist Taras Shevchenko in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 9, 2010.
  • Ukraine's then Prime Minister and the Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during her news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 4, 2010.
  • A worker pastes up a huge poster of Ukraine's then Prime Minister and Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko, during a campaign in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 14, 2010.

The man behind Yulia Tymoshenko’s woes is Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine. The first time he ran against the opposition in 2004, he narrowly lost. Viktor Yushchenko became president and Yulia Timoshenko became prime minister.

Analysts say President Yanukovych vows to never let that happen again.
 
Olexiy Haran, a political scientist at Kyiv Mohyla University, says, "He believes that he was humiliated during in 2004, so he needs a kind of revenge, and also to crush his political opponents. So I believe he is afraid of Tymoshenko.”

After one year in jail, Yulia Tymoshenko has bounced back in opinion polls. She now rivals President Yanukovych in popularity. Her supporters are mobilizing as Ukraine starts three months of campaigning for parliamentary elections at the end of October.

On Kyiv’s main avenue, Kreschatik, Alla Nedelka runs a Tymoshenko solidarity camp. She says Yulia Tymoshenko is the only dangerous rival for President Yanukovych, and one year in jail has helped to move the popular mood in Tymoshenko’s favor.

Political scientist Sergiy Kudelia believes Ukraine’s president is imitating Vladimir Putin. The Russian president has kept his chief rival, former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in jail for almost eight years.

"He hopes that Tymoshenko will become another Khodorkovsky,” says Kudelia who has taught Ukrainian politics at George Washington University. He says Ukraine’s president hopes the West will complain about it, will criticize him, but then, eventually,  will agree with the fact she will be jailed for a long time.

Yevhenia Tymoshenko’s father is in exile in Prague, her mother faces trials in Kharkiv, but Yevhenia fights on.
 
“We are asking the democratic world not to leave us, and to continue the pressure, and to use all the instruments they have to stop the building up of dictatorship,” she says, sitting in her mother’s chair.  “Because that is most important for us is: not to reason with the regime or to compromise with it.  It is not going to work.”
 
In Ukraine, Europe’s sixth most-populous nation, the future of democracy may now be intertwined with the future of Yulia Tymoshenko.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid