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25 August, 2011  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

Worry Rises in the West

Quite unexpectedly, the world community censures Kyiv for Tymoshenko’s arrest

The leading nations’ foreign ministries used the language of diplomacy, while the world mass media, that of journalism, to propagate the same thesis: that the Tymoshenko trial will cripple Ukraine's future. This year Ukraine’s foreign ministry has already tried to play the role of an official spin doctor, refuting any critical interviews or articles published in foreign media which describe the situation in Ukraine. They sing of a life which is getting better and better, while accusing Tymoshenko of misinforming the world community. Well, today the Ukrainian leadership has to cook up a retort to the whole world, and this is no exaggeration.

The Economist, Great Britain

“The images of Ms Tymoshenko being led away from the courtroom, and of heavy-clad paramilitaries dispersing small protests outside, have confirmed many people’s worst fears about Mr Yanukovych. By locking up Ms Tymoshenko before her trial was over, he has crossed a line. In this he is reminiscent of Vladimir Putin during his first term as Russia’s president, when he chose to have Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon, arrested in 2003.

“The difference is that Mr Putin knew what he was doing. Mr Yanukovich, by contrast, seems to have waded across the Rubicon without noticing. Still, in Ukraine as in Russia, the problem with such acts of retribution is that they make the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another that much less likely.”

The Financial Times, Great Britain

“If the conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko remove her from politics for long, the perception of Ukraine as a nation that shuns democracy and European values can have a long-lasting effect on investors and shape their attitude towards it.

“The Ukrainian economy badly wants investment, especially if it aspires for a steady growth after a 15 percent drop in its GDP in 2009. Investors will no longer inquire when the Ukrainian markets of retail trade, insurance, banking services, and the domestic market overall will catch up with their Polish counterparts. They will rather ask if the nation will turn East, back to Russia, which would keep it in its influence zone, or if will continue dashing East and West alternatively, like it has been doing for many years now. In a long-term perspective, the current political mess can cripple it immensely.”

Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

“The arrest of the former Prime Minister, who leads the opposition today, and making it into a political show does not help improve Ukraine’s image. This is an act in eastern, authoritarian style, suggesting the imprisonment of Russia’s oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Its true aim is to remove her from the political activities and stop her from taking part in next year’s parliamentary election, which is far from a concern for justice. It is sad that Ukrainian leaders are resorting to the same tricks used by their neighbors in Russia. Before that there still was some hope that Ukraine would try to be different.”

Marianne, France

“The Ukraine of today is haunted by a ghost, the ghost of Stalinism. Its president Viktor Yanukovych longs for a despotic style in government, which is obvious from how his state apparatus has been operating. We had been suspicious of him before. But his use of the worst police and court methods is nothing short of insult to any true democrat. This is a clear parody of justice, comparable to the old Moscow trials under the Attorney General of the USSR Andrei Vyshynsky (who, appointed to this post in 1935, became the key state prosecutor at the show trials of the former Soviet functionaries in 1936-38. – Ed.). The reason for incarceration sounds at least paradoxical, if not ridiculous: abuse of power! This formulation could only evoke a smile, especially given the behavior of the new Ukrainian functionaries, if its consequences did not look so tragic from a human perspective.”

The WashingtonPost, USA

“Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has a dilemma. He took office last year promising to lead his country toward economic integration with the European Union, which is what Ukraine’s big industrialists as well as most of its citizens want. But Mr. Yanukovych also wants to concentrate power in his own hands and to punish his political enemies — especially the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, which reversed his previous, fraudulent election as president. He has been slow to realize that he cannot do both. (…)

“The foreign ministry argues that the flamboyant opposition leader’s behavior would have led to her jailing in a U.S. court — which seems most unlikely. In reality, the Obama administration and European governments have been unanimous in saying that Ms. Tymoshenko’s prosecution appears political and her jailing unjust.”

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy (joint statement):

“We are extremely concerned by reports of today’s events in Pechersk District Court, culminating in the arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Fatherland Party.

“The EU and other international partners of Ukraine have repeatedly underlined the need for fair, transparent and independent legal processes to avoid any perception of a policy of selective justice. Today’s events are therefore a cause for concern about the state of the rule of law in Ukraine.

“We reiterate previous statements that we and other colleagues have made on the high standards we expect from a country aspiring to political association with the EU.”

Statement by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“We have doubts over the motives of this trial. In particular, we think the right to defense was not ensured. As we have repeatedly stressed, respect for the rule of law is a key element in building a partnership between France, the European Union and Ukraine. France and its European partners continue to closely monitor the situation with Yulia Tymoshenko.”

Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament

“I am disturbed by the news about Court's decision to detain former Prime Minister Tymoshenko. The context and conditions raise concern about the politically motivated nature of this decision, and about the application of the rule of law in Ukraine.”

Carl Bildt, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden

“There is little doubt that the embarrassing spectacle of the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – and her recent arrest on contempt charges during the proceedings – is causing great damage to her country. And there is little doubt that how Ukraine develops will be of great importance for Europe’s future. (…)

“Together with other similar cases, these trials raise serious questions about Ukraine’s judicial system and law enforcement agencies. They provide the clearest indication yet that Ukraine, despite assurances by Yanukovich’s government, is developing in the wrong direction.”

John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada:

“Canada is concerned by the apparently politically motivated persecution, and now arrest, of Yulia Tymoshenko. The appearance of political bias in judicial proceedings undermines the rule of law. Canada urges the Ukrainian government to strengthen judiciary independence and continues to support efforts to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous society in Ukraine.”

Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK:

“I was very concerned to learn of the detention of the Ukrainian opposition politician, Yulia Tymoshenko, on 5 August. (…)

“I urge the Ukrainian authorities to adhere to the highest democratic standards, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and an independent, transparent and fair judicial process. These are prerequisites for its closer integration with the European Union.”

Statement by the US Department of State:

“The U.S. underlines that it is highly concerned with the former Prime Minister Tymoshenko’s arrest. The international community has also expressed its concern. Her arrest raises doubts as to Ukraine’s legal norms and continues to strengthen the opinion that the Ukrainian authorities’ accusations are politically motivated.

“We urge Ukraine to immediately look into Tymoshenko’s release.

“We have advised the Ukrainian government of our worries and will continue to watch Tymoshenko’s and other Ukrainian opposition leaders’ court hearings very closely.”

Werner Hoyer, Minister of State, Foreign Office, Germany:

“There is great doubt as to the pretrial incarceration being a proportionate restriction measure. The proceedings against many former government members on indictment of malfeasance raise doubts concerning the political bias of the justice. If this impression consolidates, it will become a considerable obstacle for Ukraine’s rapprochement with the European Union.”

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