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Tymoshenko will be Free

October 11, 2011 - Tomasz Kułakowski - Bez kategorii

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A Kyiv court has sentenced former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison and barred her from occupying government posts for three years. In addition, the leader of the opposition will have to repay $190 million apparently lost by the state gas company Naftogaz after signing an agreement with Gazprom.

“I disagree with this verdict. With all the repression of citizens, the year 1937 has returned to Ukraine. We have a dictatorship now. I ask all of you to unite with Ukraine’s citizens and opposition forces in order to abolish the authoritarian government,” Tymoshenko said in the court while addressing journalists. She accepted the verdict quite calmly.  She announced that her case will make it to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Strasburg. The former “Orange Princess” demonstrated her belief that in the end the truth will win.

Viktor Yanukovych washes his hands of the verdict and hides himself behind the independent judiciary and obsolete regulations. “This is not the final decision. There is still the Court of Appeals. The decision which this court will make and within which law will be of crucial importance,” Yanukovych said in Kyiv.

The issue in question is a change in the currently binding 1962 Criminal Code. Based on its provisions, members of the government bear criminal responsibility for political crimes.

“Considering the fact that this code is still binding, the courts are obliged to follow it and the same applies to Ukraine’s citizens,” said Ukraine’s president.

The president’s goal is not to put Tymoshenko in prison but to “convince” her to stop being involved in politics. Tymoshenko who is the only politician able to win a presidential election against Yanukovych is a threat to Ukraine’s political elite. Yanukovych’s reasoning is based on the assumption that embarrassing Tymoshenko publically will turn the voters against her. Then there will be no alternative. The opposition forces are already divided and Ukrainians are not familiar with other opposition members. Yanukovych’s plan envisions the triumph of the Party of Regions in the next year’s parliamentary elections and a 2015 presidential reelection bid.

But the game is played not only over internal policy and that is why Tymoshenko will probably leave prison before the end of 2011. The prize fought over is the initial signing of the association agreement which will get Ukraine closer to the European Union by creating the free trade zone.

The question is not a matter of if, but rather how Tymoshenko will get her freedom back. Possibly a new criminal code will be introduced that will retroactively nullify the verdict, perhaps the verdict will be changed by the appeals process, or the case will be redirected for one more consideration. It is also quite possible that the president himself will grant her amnesty and by doing so show his “democratic face”.

During the recent Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw, Yanukovych tested how capable the West is forgiving him the sins of oppressing his opposition. Unfortunately for him, the Polish government and the top EU officials were quite clear in their message that Tymoshenko’s imprisonment is out of the question.

Now, Yanukovych needs to have his cake and eat it too. In other words, he needs to release Tymoshenko while keeping face. If the former Prime Minister gets her energy back we can expect to have another hot winter in Ukraine.

Tomasz Kułakowski is a journalist for Polish Public Radio (Polskie Radio) and a reporter for its press agency, Informacyjna Agencja Radiowa (IAR), specialising in Eastern Europe.

Translated by Iwona Reichardt

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