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
TEXT SIZE - +

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.


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid