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KIEV, November 7 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions said it would not support any of the draft laws allowing prisoners to undergo medical treatment abroad.
The parliament has received four draft laws on the medical treatment of prisoners abroad, which can propose a mechanism for releasing former Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina party leader Yulia Timoshenko, who has been sentenced to a prison term for abuse of office. However MPs believe that none of them will pass.
On Wednesday, November 6, the parliament’s committee on legislative support sent all four draft laws for reworking. However the opposition insists on their consideration.
MPs and parliament leaders are now engaged in consultations on the issue, with European Union and presidential administration officials attending.
Earlier in the day, Parliament Speaker Vladimir Rybak met with the European Parliament’s monitoring mission co-chairs Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pat Cox. He expressed hope that their 25th visit to Kiev would be successful for Ukraine and the EU. “Your mission will go down in history as an example of an effective channel of communication between Ukraine and the European Union in important complex matters of judicial reform in Ukraine,” Rybak said.
He stressed that the Ukrainian leadership highly appreciated the EU monitoring mission’s work. “I want to assure you that the signing of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU at the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius on November 29 remains a key foreign policy priority for Ukraine,” Rybak said. “I want to stress that there is no Plan B. Ukraine remains committed to European integration and there is alternative to this process.”
Kwasniewski and Cox met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich earlier in the day.
Local observers have noted several recent events that put Kiev farther away from signing an association agreement with the European Union in Vilnius in late November and Timoshenko from getting released from prison.
In the United States and Switzerland, Ukraine has once again initiated legal action against Timoshenko and her long-standing partner and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko.
Vladimir Oleinik of the Party of Regions said: “If we set her free now under any pretext, this will mean that the country and the budget will never see the money stolen by Timoshenko. The overall amount of money found is at least half a billion U.S. dollars. A part of this amount is the money shared with Lazarenko, which has been seized in the United States and is now in bank accounts there. Another part is in a Swiss bank in Yulia Timoshenko’s account. Ukraine also intends to sue for the money received from the sale of Pavel Lazarenko’s villa in California, which was acquired as a result of the former premier’s corruption offences.”
He also recalled Timoshenko’s debts to Russia. “It would be very strange for us to let Timoshenko go to her unlawfully obtained holdings hidden abroad,” the MP said.
The draft laws concern mainly Timoshenko. The European Union said the association agreement with Ukraine would not be signed at the European Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28-29 unless the Timoshenko issue was solved.
Timoshenko’s colleague in the party and head of its faction in the national parliament, Arseny Yatsenyuk, said earlier that one of the demands put forth by the European Union to Ukraine was an end to political prosecutions. “This is the first point made by the European Union, that is, the release of Timoshenko. Like it or not, this decision has to be made. Allowing her to undergo medical treatment abroad will be the first step towards stopping political prosecutions,” he said, adding that “there is too little time left” for this issue to be solved.
“Our future European integration depends on this. In other words, we expect a responsible political decision by the end of September as to whether Ukraine will sign the [association] agreement with the European Union or not,” Yatsenyuk said.
At the same time, Valeria Lutkovskaya, the parliament’s human rights commissioner, believes that Timoshenko may be allowed to go to Germany for medical treatment only after the parliaments of the two countries have ratified the relevant interstate agreement.
Timoshenko is now undergoing medical treatment at a hospital in Kharkov. She fell ill on August 18, 2011, two weeks after her arrest. Her defence lawyer Serei Vlasenko said “Yulia Timoshenko’s health has deteriorated and the reasons are unknown.” But Timoshenko mistrusts Ukrainian medics and rejected their help. She insists that she be examined and treated by independent medics.
Timoshenko’s supporters demand that the Ukrainian authorities let her go to Germany for medical treatment. However this is prohibited by Ukrainian legislation. The opposition links Timoshenko’s release with the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Some have even urged the EU to boycott the signing of the agreement at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius this November.
Timoshenko was arrested on August 5, 2011 in the so-called “gas case” for “systematically obstructing the establishment of truth, breaking order during the court hearings, ignoring the judge’s instructions, delaying the process and showing disrespect for the court.”
On April 30, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights said the verdict against Timoshenko was politically motivated and her rights had been violated.
On August 1, 2013, Timoshenko’s lawyers filed an appeal to the Supreme Court through the Higher Specialised Court, requesting that the verdict in the so-called “gas case” be reviewed and annulled.
However the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice insists that the ECHR judgment in the Timoshenko vs. Ukraine case has been complied with in full and entails no additional obligations for Ukraine.
Vlasenko is adamant, however, that Ukraine had to release Timoshenko from prison in order to comply with the ECHR ruling in full.
On October 11, 2011, Timoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for having acted in excess of her powers which had resulted in damage to national interests.
Timoshenko has also been barred from holding public positions for three years and has to pay a penalty of 189 million U.S. dollars in damages to Naftogaz Ukrainy.
In late December 2011, Timoshenko was transferred from the investigation prison to a correctional facility in the eastern Kharkov region.