On Tuesday, a Kiev district court sentenced Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko to seven years in prison. It also banned the former prime minister to occupy government posts for the period of three years and bound her to pay a compensation of 187 million U.S. dollars to Naftogaz Ukrainy. On the same day, the Russian foreign minister came out with a statement that there was “an obvious anti-Russian implication in the entire history.”
Many Ukrainian experts believe that Timoshenko would soon be freed, since it is highly likely that she would serve as a bargaining chip in Kiev’s talks with the European Union.
Both Russia and the West reacted negatively to this court verdict and warned the Ukrainian authorities of consequences it will have to face for a long time, writes the Kommersant. In the mean time, Timoshenko called on the nation to pull efforts to “overthrow the dictatorship of [President Viktor] Yanukovich.” In its comment of the situation around the Ukrainian former prime minister, the Russian foreign ministry stressed there was “an obvious anti-Russian implication.” According to the newspaper, the ministry came out with its tough comment on the instruction from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also commented on Timoshenko’s sentence. The comment came from Beijing, where he is currently on a visit. He said he did not quite understand why the Ukrainian former prime minister had been sentence to seven years in prison but, at the same time, he stressed that it was highly dangerous and counter-productive to question the Russian-Ukrainian gas deals reached in talks with her.
In the mean time, threats to the Ukrainian authorities are coming from the West, RBC daily notes. The European Union may revise its policy towards Ukraine after such a verdict, said spokesperson for the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic. Further on, Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule added the future of an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine will depend largely on what will be done in respect of the country’s former prime minister.
Before the court passed its verdict, many Ukrainian experts believed that the authorities would stick to their tactics of delaying the trial in order not to irritate Europe, writes the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. At stake is the process of signing two agreements between Ukraine and the European Union, on a free trade zone and on Ukraine’s associated membership, the said. On Monday, the situation was in the focus of attention of European Union’s foreign ministers, who gathered in Luxembourg, but they failed to come to a consensus, the newspaper notes. They took an evasive decision, i.e. not to block Ukraine’s strive at the European integration but make the process dependent on the situation with democracy in that country.
Note should be made that earlier, representatives from of the European Union sounded much tougher urging Kiev to grant the opposition leader the right to take part in the elections, a thing possible only in case of a no-guilty verdict. But the situation changed in the past few days. A source close to Ukraine’s diplomatic circles told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta that on the sidelines of the Luxembourg meeting, the European foreign minister widely discussed a recent feature by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about plans about a Eurasian union. “Europeans understand only too well that putting impracticable demands to Viktor Yanukovich they only will stymie the situation leaving Ukraine the only way out – to join Russia-sponsored associations. That is why they have allayed their rhetoric and officially offered Kiev to choose its foreign policy vector by its own,” the source said.
“In case the sentence is not changed soon, say, in the process of parliamentary hearing of a bill on the de-criminalization of a number of articles of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, or in a court of appeals, Ukraine will have to give up its efforts towards European integration. The doors will be closed to us. And this is not because of the Timoshenko case but rather because the Yanukovich team has virtually wiped the floor with basic principles underlying the united Europe,” Ukrainian political scientist Sergei Taran said. In his opinion, the sentence was just a transition phase in the Timoshenko case: the authorities have brought the case to a logical end and have kept the face, but later the situation might change and the opposition leader might be freed. A representative from the ruling party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also shared this opinion.