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EU, U.S. Warn Ukraine On Tymoshenko Case

Published: September 19, 2012 (Issue # 1727)


YALTA, Ukraine — A top U.S. official said Saturday that Ukraine is failing its test on democracy in the run-up to parliamentary elections, citing the jailing of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and shrinking media freedoms.

The jailing of Tymoshenko, the country’s top opposition leader and heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, has strained Ukraine’s relations with the West, which has condemned her conviction as politically motivated. The European Union has frozen a key cooperation deal with Kiev.

Thomas Melia, the U.S. assistant deputy secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said the Ukrainian election set for October has been compromised by the jailing of Tymoshenko and another top opposition leader. Melia said Ukraine “failed the test today.”

“I think if the international community, the international observers, were to give a grade today on this election environment and whether it is going to mark a step toward Europe and the West, I think it failed that test today,” Melia told an international conference in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Yalta. “I think with the political prosecution, politically directed prosecutions, against certain opposition candidates, that has serious consequences on the quality of the election here.”

The conference had been dedicated to Ukraine’s integration into the EU, but many speakers used it to put the government on the defensive by criticizing its policies.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on charges of abusing her powers while negotiating a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. She denies the charges, and accuses President Viktor Yanukovych, her longtime foe, of jailing her to bar her from the vote.

“The case — from the very beginning — was politically motivated,” Tymoshenko’s top aide, Hrihoriy Nemyria, said at the conference.

Yanukovych, whose fraud-tainted victory in 2004 was annulled under the pressure of massive street protests dubbed the Orange Revolution, has resisted strong Western pressure to release her, saying he has no influence over Ukraine’s courts.

Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin maintained a tough stance on the Tymoshenko case, suggesting the Ukrainian leaders will not bow to Western pressure.

“The issue of freeing Tymoshenko is exclusively in the framework of the law enforcement and judicial system of Ukraine and no statements, political declarations and blackmailing will lead to a positive decision,” Kuzmin told the conference.

But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was just denied permission to visit Tymoshenko in jail, suggested that keeping her behind bars will effectively prevent Ukraine from joining the Western club, which it strives to do.

“If you try to go everywhere you will likely end up nowhere,” Bildt said. “You cannot pursue a policy of reforming, truly modernizing a country, without being very dedicated to a strategy and a mission.”





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the club’s website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the club’s merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at today’s Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Women’s Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the city’s international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their “Industrial St. Petersburg” Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the “Business With China” forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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