Western politicians comment on the verdict against Yulia Tymoshenko announced on 11 October exclusively for The Ukrainian Week
“Bankova (The Presidential Administration at 11, Bankova St.) is facing a choice”
Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council (USA)
Ukrainian authorities are pursing two fundamentally contradictory policies: moving Ukraine towards Europe and emasculating the political opposition. The government cannot achieve the former while implementing the latter. Bankova is facing a choice.
“PACE liberals call on Ukraine to reject the practice of politically motivated practices”
Anne Brasseur, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in PACE (Luxembourg)
I can only add my voice to those of many others who have disagreed with the verdict of Pechersk Court in Kyiv against one-time premier Yulia Tymoshenko. The practice of using political decisions as a basis for criminal sentences is unacceptable. All types of political motivation and selective justice hamper the development of democracy in Ukraine. Every democratic country must clearly separate legal proceedings from politics, implement totally independent justice and reject the practice of politically motivated court processes for ever.
“Tymoshenko could turn into a bargaining chip for Kyiv”
Egidijus Vareikis, Chairman of Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs in PACE (Lithuania)
I’m not surprised by the 7-year sentence for Ms. Tymoshenko. If the term were shorter, the government would have demonstrated concessions. If it were longer, it would have been considered to be outright repression. This is a politically motivated verdict. Obviously, it will be an impediment to negotiations on free trade and the association agreement. I assume that the Ukrainian government will use Tymoshenko as a bargaining tool with Europeans; to either receive something or improve trade terms with them, for example, in exchange for her release.
“Doubts arise as to whether Ukraine really wants to be part of political Europe”
Andres Herkel, Member of European People’s Party faction in PACE (Estonia)
This verdict has a negative impact on association agreement negotiations between the EU and Ukraine. Even if the association agreement is signed, some questions will remain open: What kind of a country is this with such an inefficient judiciary and why have we signed an Association Agreement with it? Doubts arise as to whether Ukraine really wants to be part of political Europe. EU leaders have already expressed their disappointment. At a meeting of the leaders of EU-members’ diplomatic bodies in Luxembourg, Urmas Paet, the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, publicly stated his concern about the situation.
“The verdict against Tymoshenko is a huge political scandal”
Pedro Argamunt, Member of European People’s Party faction in PACE (Spain)
I read the verdict of the Pechersk Court this morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t think that this would happen. Seven years in jail followed by a three-year ban on political activities is a 100% politically motivated sentence. In all likelihood, its purpose is to prevent Ms. Tymoshenko from running in the upcoming parliamentary election and subsequently in the presidential election. I guess these are the means by which Mr. Yanukovych decided to simplify his rise to power, by removing a dangerous rival. Such actions damage Ukraine’s political image.
I’m sure it won’t take long for the Council of Europe and the European Union to give their opinion. This is a huge political scandal. The case is not about corruption or personal enrichment. It’s pure politics. Even if the EU does sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine, the European Parliament will not ratify it as long as Tymoshenko is behind bars.
“The verdict has come as a shock to the EU”
Leonidas Donskis, Member of the European Parliament (Lithuania)
In my view, this verdict will be a severe blow to Ukraine and its political elite, at least as far as the EU is concerned. It is obvious to everyone that Tymoshenko has been eliminated from the list of potential political adversaries and rivals of President Viktor Yanukovych. She is much too well known in Europe and beyond to be left alone. Just like her politically motivated trial, this verdict has come as a bitter disappointment, not to say shock for the EU. On the other hand, this could have been a maneuver to see how far the Ukrainian leadership can go in this story and whether the EU is still capable of a quick and proper reaction. They are checking our sensitivities. All in all, a bitter disappointment, albeit a cynical and smart political game.
“Today’s verdict is the criminalization of political decisions”
Hanne Severinsen, President of the European Media Platform NGO and former PACE Monitoring Committee Rapporteur on Ukraine
Yulia Tymoshenko was tried according to the old Soviet § “Abuse of Power” stemming from the Soviet-era, when it was necessary to have a tool to punish people that had fallen afoul of senior officials. It is scandalous that Ukraine has failed to fulfill its obligation to reform the judiciary. Today’s “verdict” is the criminalization of political decisions. It is simple copy-paste: the decision of the prosecutor general - ordered by the president - was executed by a “judge” who is on a probation period - totally dependent and controlled by the prosecution. The EU must demand that Parliament immediately begins the reform of the Criminal Code, which it is obligated to do. This will also mean the decriminalization of the case.
“Ukraine has stepped onto a path filled with perils, that jeopardize its future”
Susan Corke, Senior Program Manager for Eurasia at Freedom House
Today’s conviction will have serious consequences for the international standing of Ukraine as well as its democratic aspirations to greater integration with Europe. Freedom House joins the chorus of international condemnation and will forcefully speak out to the international community that respect for rule of law is a necessary condition for further negotiations with Ukraine. We call on the European Union to suspend negotiations on a free trade agreement with Ukraine until Tymoshenko and other unjustly-jailed members of the opposition are released and pardoned. The words of the former Prime Minister regarding the fact that the current leaders of Ukraine are “distancing your country from Europe, while using European rhetoric” are being confirmed. This is a path filled with perils that jeopardize the future of Ukraine.
On May 16, Ukrainian filmmaker currently jailed in Russia as a political prisoner went on a hunger strike. In a public letter he wrote that he would only stop the strike if all 64 Ukrainian prisoners jailed in Russia for politically-motivated grounds are released
The opposition in Ukraine is mostly reactive and it chooses actions that will be most useful for criticizing the current Administration or gaining the attention of a specific part of the electorate. What Ukraine needs most right now is a consolidating program and a party that could present its own alternative for the country