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Timoshenko’s release unlikely before Vilnius summit - experts

November 16, 2013, 3:07 UTC+3 16
The leader of the opposition party Batkyvschina (Fatherland) Arseny Yatsenyuk said the opposition was ready for “incredible compromises”, while Yanukovich and his Party of Regions have made none
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© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

KIEV, November 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Ukrainian parliament’s task group will continue discussing the opposition’s bill to allow convicts, including the opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko, now in jail, to receive medical treatment abroad and may introduce it to parliament on Tuesday, November 19.

The bill has not yet been registered and is not available now, which is unacceptable, as this “hampers cooperation and further work”, a member of parliament from the ruling Party of Regions, Vladimir Oliynyk, participating in the group said.

The leader of the opposition party Batkyvschina (Fatherland) Arseny Yatsenyuk said the opposition was ready for “incredible compromises”, while Yanukovich and his Party of Regions have made none.

The Party of Regions had introduced no bill to settle the Timoshenko issue, Yatsenyuk added. There are some chances the EU association agreement will be signed, but they are rather slim, he believes.

Party of Regions legislator Oleg Zarubinsky also believes the agreement is impossible until parliament resolves the Timoshenko issue, but there is some time left to do it. He added politicians were divided over the issue, with some trying to achieve her release from jail, while others suggest Timoshenko receive treatment but then continues serving her term in prison. Zarubinsky expressed hope the task group would come to a compromise agreement. He believes Europe will not abandon its intent to sign the agreement “as it is a significant lever to influence Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, the head of the civic expert council in the committee Ukraine-EU, Valery Chaly, is not as optimistic.

“Now, on November 15, the chances are near zero,” he said, adding the EU remained determined the agreement was impossible unless parliament resolved the Timoshenko issue, while Ukraine has been increasingly adamant this issue was impossible to settle.

“Today our European partners cannot sign the agreement without Timoshenko’s release and save face”, the expert said.

The head of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research, Vladimir Fesenko, also doubts the ex-prime minister will be released before the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius on November 28-29, saying the likelihood was “extremely minimal”.

His view is shared by the director of the Kiev Centre for Political Research and Conflictology, Mikhail Pogrebinsky. “The situation is so complicated that the summit's format may prove different from the original expectations,” he said.

Whatever the diversity of opinion, political scientists agree by and large that the Timoshenko factor has lost its overwhelming importance for the agreement, with the economic factor coming to the foreground.

One of the leaders of Party of Regions, Mikhail Chechetov, has lately suggested Europe should compensate for Ukraine’s economic losses from the gas agreement with Russia signed in 2009 by the then Prime Minister Timoshenko. Speaking on a Ukrainian TV channel, he said Europe might pay Ukraine $20 billion lost following the gas deal, if it was so eager to see Timoshenko free. Earlier, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said Ukraine had overpaid 20 billion dollars for gas over three years.

The heads of the European Parliament’s mission in Ukraine, Aleksander Kwaniewski and Pat Cox estimate the chances as fifty-fifty. The mission is to visit Ukraine again next week to spend as much time there as is needed, Cox said at a news conference in Brussels, adding the determination remained strong. The mission also announced the term for the implementation of all requirements needed for the agreement to be signed on November 29 was expiring.

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