Free Markets, Free People

A Turn in the Yulia Tymoshenko Case?

Long-time observers of Ukraine will know the story of the country’s last decade of political drama: The Orange Revolution, where protests led to the victory of the Viktor Yushchenko/Yulia Tymoshenko coalition over Viktor Yanukovych; Yushchenko’s ascent to the Presidency, with Tymoshenko as his Prime Minister; Tymoshenko’s prosecution of Yanukovych for crimes past the statute of limitations; Tymoshenko’s fall and return; Yanukovych’s victory over Tymoshenko in the 2010 elections; and now Tymoshenko’s prosecution and conviction.

If it makes your head spin reading about it, try living through it.

The latest news is that Tymoshenko could be pardoned as a result of Ukraine’s continued, sweeping reforms to its elections and criminal codes.

Jailed former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could be pardoned under a new Criminal Procedure Code now being introduced as part of the country’s pro-European Union reform agenda.

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych said last week that if her sentence remains in force after the code becomes law, he will consider any pardon request from her because he wants the “right solution” according to “European standards.”

Tymoshenko was last year jailed for seven years for exceeding her authority as Prime Minister in concluding a 2009 gas contract with Russia. That deal has since resulted in her country paying far more for Russian gas than its neighbours.

The Yanukovych government maintains that it has always kept its distance from the court proceedings against Tymoshenko and the President says as it stands, he cannot legally grant her a pardon. Only the introduction of these new laws will give him the latitude to free Tymoshenko once her appeal has been heard.

“Once we get a solution of the Court of Appeal…if we adopt the Criminal Procedure Code, I think we will have such a possibility,” he said.

“I am for this matter to be considered under the new Criminal Procedure Code.”

The Code is now working its way through the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) and is one of a number of reforms the Yanukovych has championed to bring his nation in line with EU countries.

Ukraine has also initiated economic reforms in accordance with World Bank criteria and the President last week honoured his pledge to revitalise his cabinet by bringing in three new ministers, including outspoken businessman Petro Poroshenko.

Yanukovych said in October this year the EU and other nations will be able to witness fair, free and transparent elections in his country.

“I stand for a fair fight by the rules. There is the law. I am for implementation of this law and fight by the rules according to it,” he said.

“I always stress that this is the first big election to be held by the current power, and of course we must show that we are a civilized country (and) a European country.”

Yanukovych has long maintained Ukraine’s future lies in the European Union and getting a signed Association Agreement with Brussels is the next important step on the road to EU membership. The imprisonment of Tymoshenko set back those ambitions but a Presidential pardon could be the first stage in rekindling that process.

Yanukovych has also had to resist the advances of Russia, which is pressuring its neighbours to sign a Customs Agreement that would create a Russia-centric free trade alternative to the European Union.

Ukraine is arguably advancing West faster than any of the other former Soviet republics in its advance to the West. Exciting times are ahead.

<a href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-11095p1.html?pl=edit-00&cr=00″>Mikhail Levit</a> / <a href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/?pl=edit-00&cr=00″>Shutterstock.com</a>