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KIEV, September 30 (Itar-Tass) —— Only the court can say whether ex-Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is guilty or not, President Viktor Yanukovich said. He is visiting Warsaw to attend the second Eastern Partnership summit.
Asked whether the question of the Timoshenko trial had been raised at the summit, the president said, “The issue worries representatives of certain EU member countries.”
“The trial is not over yet. I would abstain from comment because it may be viewed as pressure on the court and law enforcers. No one but the court will answer the question. Our courts are independent, and the European Union knows that well,” he said.
The European Union will not sign the association agreement with Ukraine until the end of the ex-Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko case, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said upon the end of the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw.
He said the summit set the timeframe for signing the association agreement and the free trade document. The EU has made progress in the relations with Ukraine but it is concerned about the Timoshenko trial and will wait until the trial ends, he said.
European Council President Herman van Rompuy said that the association and free trade agreements were goals of the Ukrainian opposition, as well. He noted that the Timoshenko trial had been discussed at the negotiations with Ukraine several times and the European Union expressed its concern about the Timoshenko future and rejected the discriminative application of criminal laws to the opposition. Van Rompuy said that their fears were based on research.
Timoshenko started the Ukrainian way to Europe, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. In his words, Poland is monitoring the Ukrainian situation and does not doubt that further advancement towards Europe is the goal of the majority of Ukrainians.
However, the bad attitude to the opposition and the failure to comply with civil standards hamper the fulfillment of these aspirations and may have an effect on the negotiations, Tusk said, noting that the Ukrainian authorities were sending goodwill messages.
The European Union does not think that ex-Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, ex-Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko and other ex-officials who are now in custody are political prisoners, Stefan Fule, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy said an interview with the Kommersant Ukraine newspaper on September 20.
He said though that they should have a chance to take part in the elections, because the Criminal Code must not be an instrument of political rivalry. He also said that the EU had been assured that the Ukrainian authorities realized the complexity of the Timoshenko case and were sincerely wishing to resolve.
Ukraine will experience difficulties if the ex-premier and her colleagues are put to prison on the basis of laws rooted in the Soviet judiciary system, and one may hardly find EU laws to define the accusations brought against Timoshenko, he said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said it was amoral to link the Ukraine-UE agreements to the criminal case of Timoshenko.
“Such serious and global affairs as the European integration of Ukraine and the free trade zone agreement are vital for the national development, and it would not only wrong but also amoral to link them to the particular trial,” he said at the Yalta Forum.
Ukraine may become a part of the European community by the end of this year, Yanukovich said in his address to the nation marking the 20th anniversary of independent Ukraine on August 23.
“Ukraine is a modern democratic law-governed high-tech country. It is an inseparable part of the civilized European space,” he said.
The president stressed that Ukraine would integrate into the European community soon. “I am confident that this idea unites all the Ukrainians,” he said.
He also does not doubt that “the association and free trade agreements with the EU will be signed this year.”
Earlier Yanukovich expressed the opinion in his article “20 Years of Ukraine: the Road Has Just Begun” for the weekly Zerkalo Nedeli. Ukraine.
The article said that the European choice had become the foundation of Ukraine’s foreign political identity.
“Time will come and Ukraine will be a member of the European Union and join the developed countries in ten years. I am sure that will be so,” the article said.
“In spite of all the problems, we have taken the main step: we have made a final decision about our future. The European choice has become the foundation of Ukraine’s foreign policy. European values have become the foundation of our development. We are confident that the Association Agreement and the document on forming a comprehensive and profound free trade zone are what Ukraine and the European Union need. Hopefully, our partners will understand that,” the president wrote.
“Ukraine not just wants to be a European country. We want to join the big European project of building common Europe based on the values of freedom, democracy and law. We want to join in at the difficult time, we are not seeking subsidies or concessions, we want possibilities and rights. We want to join in despite the hard pressure and deliberate slowing, and to share rights of equal partners. We want to join in for the sake of our common future,” he said.
Timoshenko said on Friday that the Kiev Pechersky District Court had denied her the right to the last plea.
Presiding Judge Rodion Kireyev offered Timoshenko to make her last plea several times before he recessed to the conference room but she said every time that she was not prepared as yet. Kireyev told Timoshenko that the last plea was a right of a defendant, not a duty.
“I know that this is my right and I do not waive it. The Criminal Code of Practice says that I can demand a confidential meeting with my lawyers any time. So I ask you for giving me this opportunity. I see no reason why not do that. Besides, you have a schedule and cannot break it,” she told the judge.
The judge said that the sentence would be pronounced on October 11 and the court recessed.
He said earlier that only the parties to the trial and the media would be present in the courtroom on the day the sentence would be announced.
The Timoshenko defense said they would appeal the possible guilty verdict. “If the guilty verdict is passed, the defense will naturally appeal to the Kiev Appeals Court,” lawyer Nikolai Siry said.
On Tuesday prosecutor Lilia Frolova demanded seven years in prison for Timoshenko. She said Timoshenko’s culpability in the gas case had been proven fully.
“On results of the court deliberations, we ask the court to find Timoshenko guilty and, bearing in mind the severity of her crime, to sentence her to seven years in prison on the basis of paragraph 3, article 365 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and deny her the right to take certain positions for three years,” Frolova said.
In her words, no circumstances alleviating or exacerbating the culpability of Timoshenko were exposed in the course of the trial.
The prosecution also asked the court to meet the claim of Neftegaz Ukrainy for 1.51 billion hryvni (about $200 million).
The court declined the appeal of the Timoshenko defense for resuming the juridical investigation. Presiding Judge Rodion Kireyev said that the parties to the trial had considered every piece of evidence and documents to which the Timoshenko side had referred.
Timoshenko was accused of the illegal signing of gas contracts with Russia in 2009. The Prosecutor General’s Office said that she abused of office and caused more than 1.5 billion hryvni (about $200 million) damage to Ukraine.
Ukraine cannot secede from gas agreements with Russia signed by Yulia Timoshenko, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov told the court, as he was giving testimony in the Timoshenko case.
“When I read that agreement I could not believe it had been approved by the government. The terms of that document make unilateral secession practically impossible,” he said.
The penalty for taking less gas than contracted “is harmful for the national economy,” and the pricing formula set for the period of ten years is unprofitable, Azarov said.
“The agreement betrayed the country and caused an increase of public utility charges,” he concluded.
The Russia-Ukraine gas deal 2009 strictly complies with national laws, the Russian Foreign Ministry said immediately after the arrest of Timoshenko.
“Bearing in mind the decision of the Kiev Pechersky District Court to arrest Yulia Timoshenko who is accused by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office of exceeding her authority in the signing of contracts on Russian gas supply in 2009, the Russian Foreign Ministry states the following: all the gas agreements of 2009 were signed in strict compliance with the national laws of both states and international laws and their signing was preceded by instructions from the presidents of Russia and Ukraine,” the ministry said.
The trial of Timoshenko “must be fair and unbiased, meet every provision of Ukrainian laws and provide appropriate defense and compliance with elementary humanitarian norms and rules,” the ministry said.
The Kiev Pechersky District Court repeatedly rejected the appeals for releasing Timoshenko from custody.
The trial started on June 24, and Timoshenko was arrested on August 5 for ‘hampering the establishment of truth.’