Tymoshenko case casts shadow over EU summit
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (R) proposes a hand shake to EU president Herman Van Rompuy. AFP photoThe European Union and Ukraine have finished negotiations on a landmark cooperation agreement, but whether the bloc signs the deal still hinges on the treatment of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the EU president said yesterday.
The EU has strongly condemned the October sentencing of the former premier and opposition leader to seven years in prison, dismissing the verdict as politically motivated and calling for her release. The agreement outlines deep political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the 27-nation bloc it aspires to join. “Today we can publicly announce that negotiations on the association agreement have been finalized,” Herman van Rompuy said at the conclusion of a summit in Kiev. But he added that signing would depend on political circumstances and “our strong concern is primarily related to the politically motivated justice in Ukraine and the Tymoshenko case,” the Associated Press reported. Tymoshenko, who became an opposition leader after losing the premiership in 2010, was found guilty of overstepping her authority while negotiating a natural gas import contract with Russian in 2009. She maintains her innocence and charges that President Viktor Yanukovych, her longtime foe, masterminded the legal assault against her in order to bar her from next year’s elections. A Kiev court is now hearing an appeal of her seven-year sentence, and the next hearing is scheduled for today. Van Rompuy also criticized Belarus saying that the developments during the last 12 months are worrying and the atmosphere of repression remains unabated.