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More debates likely over "ex premier's Penal Code article"

November 16, 2011, 17:38 UTC+3

Vladimir Litvin believes the issue of criminal responsibility of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is not closed yet

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KIEV, November 16 (Itar-Tass) — Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Vladimir Litvin believes the issue of criminal responsibility of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is not closed yet. He said so to reporters in comments on lawmakers' refusal to decriminalize Article 365 of Ukraine’s Penal Code under which she was convicted.

"I don't think this theme is closed. The dialogue will continue; you do understand that the law on easing punishment for economic crimes was adopted in general, and here, a personality is involved. Some are landmark personalities," Litvin underlined.

The speaker did not commit himself to making predictions about the development of the situation. He described, as emotional, the statements claiming that the parliament's decision confirmed "the existence of political reprisals in the country and blocked Ukraine’s path to Europe."

"I believe that although the problem is sensitive and complicated, Ukraine should not become its hostage. I believe there is an interest in Ukraine in moving towards as well as the EU's interest in Ukraine’s being within the orbit of the European community," the speaker noted.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament refused to decriminalize Penal Code Article 365, under which former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was convicted. Just 147 lawmakers supported the proposed amendment which needed 226 votes to pass. Lawmakers considered the 2nd reading of the presidential bill on decriminalizing a number of Penal Code articles. In all, 223 amendments were proposed, including one from Viktor Shvets, a lawmaker from the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, who had suggested taking out Article 365.

If the parliament had voted for the amendment, Timoshenko could be released within five days. Timoshenko's bloc walked out in protest, when the amendment on Article 365 did not pass.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich told reporters in Wroclaw that the criminal cases against Timoshenko hampered the signing of the agreement on free trade zone and the association agreement with the European Union.

"It is one of the issues that most likely hampers the ratification of the agreements by some countries (of the European Union). It is lamentable that we see the attempts today to pool the issues of Ukraine’s European integration with the investigation of criminal cases in courts," the head of the Ukrainian state said.

Yanukovich underlined that opening cases against Timoshenko were not political reprisals against the Opposition.

On October 11, the ex premier was sentenced to seven years in prison, with a three-year ban on government jobs and a 189-million-dollar fine in favor of the Naftogaz Ukrainy company.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said there was evidence that the signing of the contacts between Russia's gas giant Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukrainy – contrary to the agreements concluded by the previous Cabinet – "took place solely due to Yulia Timoshenko's illegitimate and individual actions."

Kiev's appeals court on December 13 will meet in a preliminary hearing to review Timoshenko's appeal.

In a new criminal case against Timoshenko, she is accused of making the UESU (Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine) debt to the Russian Defense Ministry, worth 405.5 million dollars, a liability of the Ukrainian budget.

Timoshenko headed the UESU corporation in 1995-1997. In June 2011, the ex premier stated there were no debts to the Russian Defense Ministry.

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