Current Magazine

Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko Jailed

Posted on the 12 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko jailed, Orange Revolution reversed?

Former Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to 7 years in prison yesterday. Photo Credit: Harald Dettenborn

Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, was sentenced Tuesday at the Ukraine’s Pechersky District Court to seven years in jail for abuse of power while in office.

Tymoshenko served as prime minister of the Ukraine from 2004 to 2010, coming to power with President Viktor Yushchenko in the country’s “Orange Revolution.” The Revolution was cut short last year when Viktor Yanukovych, the nationalist Party of Regions president that the revolution overthrew, was returned to power by the electorate. Only a year later, on the 24th of June 2011, the trial against Tymoshenko began, alleging that she had abused power while signing a 2009 energy deal with Russia and that she had embezzled about £260 million from Russia in the mid 1990s.

The focus of the case has mainly been on the 2009 energy deal, which Tymoshenko brokered with Russia after it cut off its energy supply to the Ukraine. Although allegations of corruption are rife in Ukrainian politics, Tymoshenko is generally credited with getting the best possible deal for her country under difficult circumstances.

Surprisingly, Tymoshenko’s political opponent, President Viktor Yanukovych, gave a press conference where he criticised the current Criminal Procedure Code for ensuring her conviction and maintained her right to appeal and hinted at a possible change in the structure of the code to meet EU standards. “Given that it is still in force, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, and the courts are obliged to follow it … But this is not a final decision. There is still the Court of Appeal”,  said Yanukovych.

European Union (EU) and Russian officials have been quick to criticise the ruling. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “The verdict comes after a trial which did not respect the international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process.” Commentators in the West have expressed similar concerns.

The trial is politically motivated. Luke Harding laid into Viktor Yanukovych on The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, arguing that the conviction was a cynically motivated move to block Tymoshenko from running again in elections. There is some spark of hope, though, as the “Ukraine isn’t Russia” and the Euro 2012 football tournament is being held there next year “and it won’t look too good if … Tymoshenko is still in jail.”

A show trial — Yanukovych must reform the Ukraine if he hopes to join the EU. “An old-fashioned Soviet-era show trial” is how The Daily Telegraph characterised Tymoshenko’s treatment. The editorial suggested that it’s hard to divorce the trial from the Ukraine’s “poisonous politics” and that “without reform, Ukraine will not be allowed to join the [EU], nor will it receive the favourable trade relationship that it has been seeking.”

A victory for Ukranian justice over corrupt politicians. At the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Kost Bondarenko, the chairman of the board of the Institute of Ukrainian Politics, expressed his pleasure that “law and order are coming to the Ukraine” and that the old days of political unaccountability and the immunity of politicians from trial are coming to an end.  The reason the case has received so much press is because “Tymoshenko is simply the most prominent of all the VIPs brought to trial” and “her press office and PR team are more active than their opposite numbers in the Yanukovych camp”, insisted Bondarenko.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog