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23 September, 2013 15:20   ▪  

Yalta Summit, Association and Tymoshenko: the clock is ticking

It is unknown whether ex-premier Tymoshenko now wishes she had left Ukraine shortly after she faced criminal cases as advised by her family and close allies. It is almost sure, though, that President Yanukovych wishes she had.Reported by Oleksandr Mykhelson

The veil over talks on release of Tymoshenko is slightly lifted. European advocates of the opposition leader have mounted public pressure on the Ukrainian government using, among other opportunities, the annual Yalta European Strategy (YES) which Viktor Yanukovych visited. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok specifically made a point of the need to solve the Tymoshenko problem (rather than general statements of “selective justice”) after their meeting with Yanukovych.  

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė also spoke in protection of Tymoshenko in the forum debates. She irritated Yanukovych be saying that her country pays more for Russian gas than Ukraine does and Tymoshenko has nothing to do with it when Ukraine’s President once again spoke of the losses Ukraine faced as a result of the “shameful deals” for Russian gas.

Eventually, Elmar Brok announced a deadline for the Ukrainian government: it should solve the Tymoshenko case by October 15. That’s when the European Parliament will hear the report of the mission led by Alexander Kwasniewski and Patrick Cox. They now act as negotiators in the Yanukovych-EU-Tymoshenko triangle.

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The most interesting part was what Yanukovych had to say. “We still have time and we will work according to the plan that we have. We have not said yes or no yet,” he answered a question from Arseniy Yatseniuk, Batkivshchyna leader, on Friday. Also, the President admitted that he did not want to talk about this.

So, what is a possible solution? After Yatseniuk, Yuriy Lutsenko, ex-Interior Minister in Tymoshenko’s Cabinet who was also imprisoned but released this spring, called on Yanukovych to pardon Tymoshenko with a decree upon which he was released in April this year. However, Yanukovych made it clear that this is not an option.  

Indeed, he does have formal grounds to refuse to pardon her. As someone convicted for a serious crime, Tymoshenko can only be pardoned after she serves half of her term. If necessary, however, the President could turn a blind eye to the law – after all, he did pardon Lutsenko even if formal legal circumstances were not really sufficient.

So far, the only option discussed is for Tymoshenko to go abroad for medical treatment. This is confirmed by sources off-record and public statements of officials involved in her case. How exactly the authorities will justify this from a legal standpoint is a mystery, but the Bankova (Presidential Administration is at Bankova St. in Kyiv – Ed.) surely has an action plan for this.

Another thing is that Yanukovych has not said “yes” yet, as he has himself admitted. The President does feel a sort of idiosyncrasy towards Tymoshenko but it is not all that matters in this situation. 

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His public explanation for the delay of decisions on her case is as follows: “We have to find answers to the cases that are in courts right now.” This phrase (also a fragment of answer to Lutsenko), however, was followed by another one: “The answer to this question lies in the domain of finding a compromise with Tymoshenko. The court and Tymoshenko can answer this question.”

Ideally, Tymoshenko would have to do two things. The first is to stay away from politics. The second is to officially request the authorities to let her go abroad. In reality, it is obvious that Tymoshenko will not guarantee staying away from politics. And what would the guarantee be?

One option is to let Tymoshenko get her treatment at a German (or any other) hospital under a number of conditions, such as mandatory return to Ukraine by a certain date or whenever required by a Ukrainian court (prosecutor). In that case, the accepting party would have to guarantee compliance with these conditions. If Cox and Kwasniewski do have a task to provide a similar scenario, their mission is definitely a challenge.

Yanukovych would benefit if Tymoshenko pledged guilty – even if not directly or openly, but hinting at the fact that the deals she signed did damage national interests. Or if she accepted her verdict as legally correct.  For Tymoshenko, this may well be the end of her political career, and she realizes this risk very well.

Finally, mutual distrust between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych also hampers the process. Tymoshenko wants the government’s official proposal to let her go abroad for medical treatment. The government leaves the first move to the lady. As the Party of Regions MP Volodymyr Oliynyk said on the recent Shuster Live show, “what if we draft legal grounds for the treatment agreement between Ukraine and Germany and she says ‘Why should I go? You want you get rid of me?’ That will be a tricky situation!”

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This adds clarity to what Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on September 21: “Both Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, and ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, know what should be done in the next few days.”  

In reality, this may be weeks, not days. If so, the weeks are few. Presentation of the report of the Cox-Kwasniewski mission mentioned by Elmar Brok can be postponed. But the Council of the European Union has to take a decision on whether Ukraine is ready for the association with the EU, or not, at the expanded session (with foreign ministers) on October 21.  This one will take place as scheduled.

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