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KIEV, October 21 (Itar-Tass) —— Ukrainian President Viiktor Yanukovich denied allegations he pressured the court to jail his main political rival and former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and made it clear Ukrainian integration into the European Union should not be linked to the Timoshenko case.
“I’ve never used my position to put pressure on law makers or courts in Ukraine. I wanted Timoshenko to prove her innocence. If she made a mistake, and then the entire country suffered as a consequence then she should admit it. If she didn’t pay taxes she should admit it and pay them,” he said in an interview with Euronews on Thursday.
Yanukovich came under major criticism after Timoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for a gas deal with Russia. Many viewed the sentence as politically motivated.
“The reforms of the judicial system should not be an area of disappointment for the EU’s leaders; more than a year and half ago we started to address these issues. We are doing this as part of the process of EU integration. We realize that our legal standards need to change,” Yanukovich said.
Asked whether Timoshenko can be released due to the judicial reform in Ukraine, Yanukovich said her case was “rather controversial” because it contained numerous abuses of the law.
“This is both a political and a criminal issue. And the second part is just a criminal issue, not political. It’s a violation of criminal law. We are talking about tax evasion, we are talking about losses to the national budget, we are talking about gas that did not go through proper customs procedures and then reached the Ukrainian people, we are talking about the losses sustained by the country.”
But he stressed “by all means we want Ukraine to mature, to integrate and to adopt new, modern European standards and rules.”
“Ukraine has to start changing for the better, but putting pressure on us to do it faster and in artificial way is wrong. It is the process and this process is still continuing and is leading to progress, and it’s bringing positive changes already,” he said.