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1 May, 2013  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

The Tymoshenko Factor

Yanukovych is not ready to release Yulia Tymoshenko yet, since he obviously still sees her as a strong competitor, capable of disturbing the current calm on the power Olympus

On April 27, the Presidential Pardon Committee examined the issue of the pardon of former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko and decided that this would be premature. The justification — outstanding criminal cases and the short term of the previously determined sentence she has served. However, for anyone well-versed in Ukrainian realities, it is clear that all these issues can be resolved quickly, providing there is the political will to do so.

The fact of the matter is that Yanukovych is not ready to release her yet, since he obviously still sees her as a strong competitor, capable of disturbing the current calm on the power Olympus. In spite of Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, according to a survey conducted in April by the Razumkov Centre, almost a third of Ukrainians consider her to be the leader of the opposition (compared to 22.9% for Arseniy Yatseniuk and 8.9% for Vitaliy Klitschko).

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However, a possible plan is to tie her release to the signing or ratification of the Association Agreement with Ukraine by the most important EU member-states, in order to avoid ultimately ruining relations with Europe. Rumour has it that Yanukovych & Co are discussing the possibility of releasing Yulia Tymoshenko just before the presidential election, when the current leaders of the opposition will already be on the campaign trail and the appearance of Tymoshenko will not allow her to become a single opposition candidate.

Instead, under certain conditions, such a move could bring additional clashes to the opposition camp. This will be particularly pertinent if Yanukovych and his closes allies decide to amend the Constitution and election legislation to have the presidential election in just one round - either through parliament, or via referendum. By doing so, he will significantly increase his chances of victory, in spite of the fact that public support for him remains at 30%.

READ ALSO: The Sabotage of European Integration

Instead, opposition leaders are not too pleased by the reappearance of Yuriy Lutsenko in their ranks, and in truth, it is doubtful whether they want Tymoshenko to be released, since she is a competitor in the opposition camp. This pertains particularly to Arseniy Yatseniuk, who even without this, is barely hanging on to control of the pre-election conglomerate based around Batkivshchyna – which is, after all, Tymoshenko’s baby.

In this light, it can be assumed that if the political situation requires this, Viktor Yanukovych will indeed agree to release Tymoshenko, but only in exchange for maximum concessions on the part of the EU. In any case, it will only become an option when Yanukovych and his circle are sure that this will not harm them, or feel that her release will even be convenient for extending the current President’s stay in power beyond 2015. 

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