Ukraine Warned to Stop ‘Bluffing’ on Tymoshenko

Written by | Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Two EU foreign ministers – Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland and Sweden’s Carl Bildt – urged Ukraine yesterday (22 October) to stop “bluffing” and strive to reach a deal on the release of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko because time was running out. The two ministers met Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at hammering out a compromise on the Tymoshenko row which threatens the signing of landmark agreements with the EU next month.
At the EU-Ukraine summit on 25 February 2013, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy reiterated that one of the three areas where the EU wants to see progress before signing an association agreement (AA) with Kyiv is the problem of “selective justice” – a reference to the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, EU countries have been divided on the Tymoshenko case: while some new EU members argue that Ukraine should not be held back just because of the court case of one person who is not by any means completely innocent, some other older EU members see Tymoshenko as an icon of the Orange Revolution.
All of the 28-member bloc generally agree that Tymoshenko – the opposition leader and the current president’s fiercest opponent – was the victim of a political trial when she was jailed for seven years in 2011 for abuse of office. Though badly wanting the agreement with the EU to cement a course of Euro-integration, Yanukovich is also anxious to keep Tymoshenko out of action as a political force as he prepares for the run-up to a re-election bid in February 2015 and this is why he seems to have tried to postpone her release.
As politicians from the ruling Regions Party and the opposition wrangled over a solution, the two EU ministers, Sikorski and Bildt, warned time was running out – as Sikorski put it, “The time for bluffing is over on both sides now. It’s time for action.” The agreements between the EU and the Ukraine scheduled to be signed in Vilnius would mark a historic shift towards the West and away from Russia for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

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