News / Europe

Ukraine Trial Uniting Ukraine's Political Opposition

Pro-Tymoshenko demonstrators in Kyiv, Aug 15, 2011
Pro-Tymoshenko demonstrators in Kyiv, Aug 15, 2011
James Brooke

It may sound like the battle of the bands, but loudspeakers in Kyiv are dueling over democracy.  Our correspondent reports from the tent camps outside the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition politician known the world over for her trademark peasant braid.

Today, Ukraine’s democracy can be heard five blocks away.

Booming down the central avenue of Kyiv, the capital, towers of  loudspeakers proclaim the innocence or guilt of Yulia Tymoshenko, the nation’s former prime minister.

Twenty meters away, in a 19th century courthouse, Ms. Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s leading opposition politician, grimly sits through another day of her trial for abuse of power.

On the street, rival camps give rival views of the trial.

With a red marker, Olga Mola, a 30-year-old school teacher, paints  ‘I heart Yulia’ posters.

She says if Ms. Tymoshenko is convicted, it will be the end of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine.

Ms. Tymoshenko is not on trial for stealing money.  She is on trial for signing a gas deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2009.  The deal ended a crippling mid-winter gas shortage in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, but now prosecutors charge that she abused her powers signing a 10-year deal at high prices.

Near Olga’s white tent, Miroslav Nabyl, a 33-year-old scrap metal worker, complains that Europe is turning its back on Ms. Tymoshenko.

He charges that Europe was grateful three years ago when Ms. Tymoshenko acted to end the Russian gas cutoff.  Now, he asks, "Why is Europe quiet?"

France, Germany and Sweden recently criticized the trial.  Political analysts say that a conviction could provoke the European Union to delay a free trade pact with Ukraine.

From Washington, Obama administration officials also criticize the trial, saying it is an example of selective justice and only opposition figures are on trial for corruption in Ukraine.

Five steps from the Tymoshenko tent camp, anti-American rhetoric blares from loudspeakers at the camp for supporters of President Viktor Yanukovych.  Speakers charge the United States with interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

At the Yanukovych camp, a guard in a black windbreaker physically shoves me back to the sidewalk.  A second attempt, at a different entrance, is more successful.

As young men in black jackets and skinhead haircuts wave anti-Tymoshenko banners, Ludmila Soloviova, a 29-year-old organizer, agrees to talk:

Ludmila says that a politician who steals should not be able to hide from justice just because he or she is an opposition leader.

Taped to the black banners of Ludmila’s compound are the slogans “Theft of the People’s Property: Shame” and “Tymoshenko leader of an organized criminal group.”  In a dig at the fashion sense of Ukraine’s former prime minister, one poster reads “Louis Vuitton Medals: The Brand of the Opposition.”

Far from the passions of the street, Alyona Getmanchuk directs the Institute of World Peace, a Kyiv research organization.  She says President Yanukovych made a big political mistake by prosecuting Yulia Tymoshenko.

Getmanchuk says that by putting Ms. Tymoshenko on trial, Ukraine’s president has united the opposition, drawn sympathy for his main political rival, and, unwittingly, started her political rehabilitation.

On the foreign policy side, she says, Ukraine’s president is uniting East and West.

Europe and the United States are critical of the trial.  But criticism also comes from the Kremlin.

Moscow, she says, opposes the trial because it calls into question a gas supply deal signed by Prime Minister Putin.  In addition, by criticizing the trial, Moscow focuses attention on a weak spot in Kyiv’s drive to cut a trade deal with Europe - the fragile state of democracy in Ukraine.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid