The ex-premier’s intention to run in the presidential election may discourage Yanukovych from releasing her in exchange for the Association Agreement
Just days before the latest visit of Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski to Kyiv, many top officials in Brussels claimed that Yulia Tymoshenko was almost on the airplane to Germany. This optimism soured after the two representatives of the European Parliament (EP) returned from Ukraine. Polish EMP and member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Marek Siwiec, wrote on his blog that partial pardon would be the best option in the situation with Tymoshenko. This means halving her sentence of seven years; the fact that she has already served most of the shortened term could be the ground for her release, member of the Party of Regions’ European partner specified.
Apparently, this suggestion does not come out of the blue. The Ukrainian government extends the bargaining process for as long as possible while its political partners in the EU promote a scheme convenient for the official Kyiv: Tymoshenko will pay Ukraine USD 200mn as a compensation for the losses Ukraine incurred as a result of her actions as premier and refuse to run for presidency for three years. Then, she can go for treatment.
The European response to this – another postponement of the deadline for the Council of Ministers to take the final decision on the signing of the Association Agreement from October 21 to November 18 – probably convinced Yanukovych even more that the Europeans are ready to concede to him.
The fact that the hearing of the report of the Kox-Kwasniewski mission (extended for another month) was postponed from October 15 to November 15 signals that the EU no longer expects the Yanukovych regime to take the final decision on Tymoshenko by October 21 as Ukraine’s President promised earlier. Before the meeting of the EP Conference of Presidents, a body of political group leaders, EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle expressed hope that Yulia Tymoshenko would soon be released for treatment in Germany. This would happen before the Vilnius Summit but not next week, he then added cautiously. This may signal of yet another promise from Yanukovych made behind closed doors, or at least of a respective hint from someone from his circle.
EP President Martin Schulz also hopes that there is still chance to come to a decision. “If there were no chance, we would not extend the mission,” he said. Hannes Swoboda, Austrian EMP and Chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Group, explained in his comment for The Ukrainian Week that the EP expects Yanukovych to give a clear signal that negotiations may have a positive outcome. This positive outcome is to do something to cut the verdict for Ms. Tymoshenko and let her go to Germany for medical treatment.
Based on the meeting, Elmar Brok, Chairman of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that the Monitoring Mission offered a draft solution to the Tymoshenko case. It recommends partial pardon for her before she goes to Germany, i.e. reducing her sentence from seven to two years which Tymoshenko has already served.
In addition to the debate on this recommendation at the meeting, the Cox-Kwasniewski mission mentioned Tymoshenko’s classified letter to Yanukovych that could serve as a basis for her release before the treatment. It is currently unknown whether the letter contains just her consent to go to Germany (which should not be viewed as refusal to struggle with the regime) or her request for pardon or treatment abroad. According to Martin Schulz, this letter may be sent to Yanukovych anytime soon.
Meanwhile, members of the European People’s Party (EPP) group that includes Batkivshchyna continues to press on the need to solve the Tymoshenko issue. This rhetoric is gradually turning into an ultimatum. “There is no time left, and Ukraine’s chances to sign the Association Agreement at the Vilnius Summit in November are fading. Ukraine should urgently demonstrate real progress. Otherwise, the EU will not sign the Association Agreement based on rhetoric alone,” Jacek Saryusz-Wolski said in an interview for The Ukrainian Week.
There is no clear information on what Tymoshenko talked about for three hours with EU Ambassador Jan Tombinski and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on October 16. According to the official version, they discussed what the ex-premier will do if Yanukovych refuses to pardon her and the EU signs the Association Agreement. In a typical obscure diplomatic manner, Tombinski said that Tymoshenko expressed a “very constructive approach”.
In her address to Batkivshchyna read out at the recent assembly, Tymoshenko herself announced optimistically that this was her “last distance address” and she “will soon personally lead the historical assemblies, just like before.” If she refuses to go for treatment abroad as a prisoner, this will signal that she tries to avoid being arrested again after her return from Germany to prevent her from running in the 2015 presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, a release of any kind would allow Tymoshenko to take part in the race. This is unacceptable for Yanukovych. So, chances to solve her issue by the Vilnius Summit on November 28-29 fade. Freeing her from physical imprisonment (even if this activates her participation in Ukrainian politics from abroad) is one thing. Opening a potential way to the president’s office is another thing: this could create risks both for those in power, and the Family’s business. The current President may consider the stakes to be too high to sacrifice all this for the Association Agreement.