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Timoshenko conviction should not block Ukraine EU integration-pres

October 18, 2011, 11:37 UTC+3

On October 11, court sentenced Timoshenko to 7 years in prison and upheld Naftogaz Ukrainy’s lawsuit seeking compensation of 189.5 million US dollars

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LONDON, October 18 (Itar-Tass) — President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich has called the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko “a criminal” whose case should not become an obstacle on the path of his country’s European integration. At the same time he made it clear that, despite the rejection by Russia, the United States and the EU of the fact that Timoshenko was sentenced to 7 years in prison, there will be no rapid settlement of the crisis. He noted that the ex-prime minister’s lawyers still have the opportunity to file an appeal against the court’s ruling.

“You know, there’s an old song called “Do not hurry.” “So do not rush. This process is still ongoing. I agree with those European politicians who believe that Timoshenko’s criminal acts must be separated from the process of European integration of Ukraine,” Yanukovich said in an interview with The Times that was published on Tuesday morning.

On October 11, Kiev’s Pechersky District Court sentenced Timoshenko to seven years in prison and upheld Naftogaz Ukrainy’s lawsuit seeking compensation of 1.516 billion hryvnas (189.5 million US dollars) for damage sustained by the company as a result of the gas contracts signed with Russia in 2009.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko denied politics behind the Timoshenko criminal case.

“It’s very bad when opposition leaders are prosecuted, but this is different - this is a matter of government responsibility,” Grishchenko said at the PACE replying to questions from parliamentarians last week. “The only instance that can solve all questions is the court,” the minister said.

Grishchenko believes that Timoshenko was brought to account not for political reasons, but for activities against the interests of the state. “A prime minister cannot and has no right to make such decisions alone. The gas contracts made under her leadership were, to put it mildly, not in favour of Ukraine,” he said.

He assured the PACE that Kiev is more interested in an independent investigation of the Timoshenko case. “I would not like to make any statements that could be taken as pressure on the court,” he said.

Nevertheless, he admitted, when speaking of the Timoshenko case, that Ukraine needs to carry out a judicial and legal reform, and expressed readiness to cooperate on this issue with the Council of Europe.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich confirmed that European integration remains an unchangeable priority for his country. “European choice is the choice of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine’s integration to the European Union has been underway for many years. Much has been done to come closer to this goal because this issue is of paramount importance for us,” Yanukovich said in an interview with foreign mass media.

Yanukovich earlier called for integration and further admission of his country to the European Union. “Our main priority is integration into the European Union,” Yanukovich said. “We are ready to sign an agreement on association this year. And we want this agreement to mention prospects for Ukraine's admission to the European Union so that it is not a hollow document,” he said. Ukraine and the EU began negotiations on a new basic agreement in March 2007 and on the creation of a free trade zone in February 2008. In September 2008, Ukraine and the EU agreed to sign a new reinforced agreement on the principles of Ukraine's association, which would include the creation of a free trade zone.

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