The verdict convicting Yulia Tymoshenko is a scandal. Obviously, this is not the end of the court battle but it clearly shows the intentions of the current government and a full dependence of Ukraine’s judiciary system on those who are now in power.
The verdict really came as no surprise. We’ve all known that things were going in the wrong direction for quite some time. That things are bad in Ukraine we even knew a year ago, when the opposition was taken down in local elections, when the former minister of foreign affairs Yuriy Lutsenko was arrested and when actions were taken against the organizers of the “Tax Maiden”. In fact, Tymoshenko is neither the first one, nor the last one. Of course her case is one of the most widely covered. However, we mustn’t forget about all those after whom the government came earlier. Of course, we need to observe its actions now much more carefully, because if a politician supported by both the West and Russia as much as she was can be convicted, then who could feel safe?
Tymoshenko’s verdict has a symbolic meaning. It does not bring back the year 1937 as she said in the court, but it does mean a degradation of Ukraine. It is too bad that Viktor Yanukovych does not recognise that. Let’s hope that the international community will try to explain it to him. Until now, Yanukovych could count on some of his European colleagues. Such a gesture of good will was made when he was invited to a meeting with the American President, Barack Obama. Unfortunately, he probably did not understand it as a commitment, but rather as a legitimisation. Today is no time for leniency. Only a naive a person could think that stubborn attempts to sign an association agreement with the European Union will cause the government in Kyiv to become more democratic. They won’t.
Efforts need to be made to attract Ukraine to the EU, regardless of who governs it. Efforts need to be made to create opportunities for strengthening ties (and money) with the West. None of these can be achieved if we continue to allow for a destruction of its political opposition. Such attitude is like opening the door to the EU with one hand, and closing it with the other.
Tymoshenko is not a saint. She bears a heavy burden of political responsibility for the chaos which took place in Ukraine after 2005. But she was convicted not for this but for her opposition to Viktor Yanukovych. In this way, there are millions of Ukrainians like her. In a way, a verdict against her is a verdict against them all. And those who would say that Ukraine’s aspirations to join the EU cannot be hostage to Tymoshenko’s case should also remember that.
Andrzej Brzeziecki is the Editor-in-Chief of New Eastern Europe and Nowa Europa Wschodnia.
Translated by Iwona Reichardt