EU and US Step Up Pressure on Ukraine of Tymoshenko Case

May 15, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko shows a bruise on her forearm, which she says is the result of abuse by prison guards at the Kachanivska penitentiary colony for women in Kharkiv, Ukraine. (AFP Photo/Ukrayinska Pravda)

Pressure from the West is mounting on Ukraine to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. After weeks of European governments calling to boycott upcoming European Soccer Championship in Ukraine, Washington on Monday repeated its demand for Tymoshenko’s rehabilitation.

“The U.S. government continues to call for Mrs. Tymoshenko’s release, the release of other members of her former government, and the restoration of their full civil and political rights,” the U.S. Embassy declared in a statement after the ambassador to Kyiv met with Tymoshenko.

The foreign ministers of the European Union at a meeting also on Monday, could not agree on whether to jointly boycott the upcoming European Soccer Championship, which Ukraine will co-host with Poland next month.

Several EU governments in recent weeks, as well as the European Commission, the EU administrative body, have unilaterally declared they will not attend the tournament.

However, in a gesture of protest, at the EU meeting it was decided to postpone the signing of the Association and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.

In a Monday statement, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the EU wishes to sign the agreement, “but Ukraine needs to show that it lives in the spirit of this political association.”

This agreement offers Ukraine closer economic and political integration with the EU as a step toward full membership, but it hinges on Ukraine adopting democratic and legal standards in line with the rest of Europe. In addition to the Tymoshenko case, Ashton said a big test for President Victor Yanukovych would be the upcoming parliamentary elections in October that could see him defeated.

Last week, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, told the prime minister of the Ukraine to “Stay home!” and don’t come to Brussels for a meeting on the EU-Ukraine Co-operation Council. “It is a clear signal from our side that they have to change inside Ukraine. Ukraine was a model of democracy in 2004 and it has to become that once again,” he said in a Euronews interview with Alex Taylor on May 9.

After receiving an increasing number of cancellations from heads of state out of protest, led by German President Joachim Gauck, Yanukovych in an embarrassing move had to cancel an informal meeting of Eastern and Central European leaders last week.

Tymoshenko last week broke off a hunger strike after 20 days, which she had begun in protest of her treatment in prison, particularly over alleged beatings by prison guards.

Tymoshenko needs medical attention after suffering months of back pain. After authorities refused to let her travel abroad for treatment, in a compromise she agreed to be treated by a German doctor in a nearby hospital and ended her strike.

European leaders have for months criticized Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, after she was sentenced last October to seven years. She was convicted of abuse of power over a gas deal that she signed with Russia during her term as a prime minister that allegedly disadvantaged Ukraine.

Many governments and human rights groups accuse President Yanukovych of using the trial as a political weapon to get rid of his main opponent.

Yanukovych and his government have reacted angrily to the accusations and described the response by Western governments as reviving Cold War tactics.

Tymoshenko was a key figure during the pro-Europe Orange Revolution in 2004 that brought down Yanukovych after he rigged presidential elections. Six years later Russia-oriented Yanukovych returned to power. Since then, relations with Europe have soured amid accusations of human rights violations, growing corruption, and misuse of power.

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