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21 October, 2011  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

Tymoshenko’s Second Case: Traces of Russia

Investigating commercial transactions may look less politicized to the West than the case of intergovernmental gas contracts.

No sooner had Judge Kireev sentenced former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison than Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) opened a new case against her. Ivan Derevianko, head of the SBU Chief Investigation Directorate, told the press that she has been charged with “attempting to embezzle budget money on an especially large scale” in 1996-97, allegedly in conspiracy with then Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

More specifically, the United Energy Systems of Ukraine, a private company Tymoshenko headed in the 1990s, owed Russia’s Defense Ministry USD 405.5 million. Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers, led by Lazarenko, provided state guarantees for this financial liability. According to Derevianko, the new case was opened in the summer of 2011 when the Ukrainian government received an unexpected letter from the Russian Defense Ministry requesting payment of the outstanding debt. In Russia, officials suspected of making non-transparent deals with the UESU were convicted in the early 2000s and later amnestied. The SBU reclassified a fact-based case into one against Tymoshenko personally on October 12, i.e., the day after the verdict in the 2009 gas accords case was delivered.

The SBU claims the statute of limitations does not apply to the new case. Derevianko has said that the Pechersk District Court verdict of October 11 in the gas case means that Tymoshenko committed a crime in January 2009. Thus, his reasoning goes, the limitation regarding possible earlier crimes has to resume in 2009 and end in 2019. But this means that the period of limitation in the UESU case was 10 years and should have expired by January 2009.

The question naturally arises: What is the point of opening another case against Tymoshenko on such shaky grounds? It appears that it fits in the context of the Moscow-Kyiv agreements that could have been reached in late September in Zavidovo (Russia). There Viktor Yanukovych could have conferred with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev and been told something along the lines: You can put her in prison but come up with another charge, one that is not associated with the gas agreements.

Investigating commercial transactions may look less politicized to the West than the case of intergovernmental gas contracts. The Russian side is not exactly overly excited about the “gas trial,” but the Kremlin evidently has nothing against Tymoshenko being persecuted for UESU transgressions. In this context, the trial that ended with a guilty verdict on October 11 may prove to be merely a prelude to new ones. They will, however, be united by a common goal: the ex-premier must serve time. For what crime is a question of secondary importance.


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