Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and current opposition leader in Ukraine, was today sentenced to seven years in prison. In addition to this, she was ordered to pay a fine of $188 million to the Ukraine state and will not be able to run for office in another three years. “[This] seriously harm Ukraine’s European integration and casts serious doubts on the Association Agreement” said Viktoria Siumar, Executive Director, Independent Media Institute in Kyiv.
Viktoria Siumar explains that President Yanukovych has shown that he does not want to hear what the EU leaders are saying. “He behaves like a typical post-Soviet authoritarian leader, the main thing for him – [is to] to remove a political rival.” Yulia Tymoshenko has 15 days to appeal the verdict.
The area outside the Pecherski District Court in Kyiv was flooded by helmeted riot police as supporters and opponents of Yulia Tymoshenko held competing rallies. Some people were reported injured in clashes with the Police. “The Court has already banned all all meetings in central Kiev, which contradicts the right to free assembly,” said Viktoria Siumar. She believes that after today’s events “the situation with human rights and democratic standards will deteriorate rapidly”
Judge Rodion Kireyev stated that Yulia Tymoshenko in addition to seven years imprisonment has to reimburse the state $188 million in losses caused by the gas contract she negotiated with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. She was also banned from seeking any public/elected office during the three years following imprisonment. This will disqualify her from participation in the 2012 parliamentary and 2015 presidential elections.
Following the verdict Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party, said that negotiations on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement should be stopped.”Unfortunately, the court process during the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, repeatedly violated human rights and, furthermore, the behavior of the judge demonstrated that courts in Ukraine are not independent and are used to eliminate political opponents,” Martens declared.
Catherine Ashton, European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also expressed her criticism on behalf of the European Union and released a declaration: “The EU is deeply disappointed with the verdict of the Pechersk District Court in Ukraine in the case of Ms Yulia Tymoshenko. The verdict comes after a trial which did not respect the international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process which I repeatedly called for in my previous statements. This unfortunately confirms that justice is being applied selectively in politically motivated prosecutions of the leaders of the opposition and members of the former government.”
The officials in the European Union have repeatedly warned the government in Ukraine that the planned bilateral agreements on political association and free trade may never be ratified by the EU states if Yulia Tymoshenko ends up in prison, or is barred from running for office before the 2012 parliamentary elections.