EU hands Ukraine extended deadline for Yulia Tymoshenko release in last-ditch effort to secure her release

 

Kiev

The European Union has given Ukrainian authorities a further month to free ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a last-ditch effort to secure her release before a crucial political summit in late November.

Former European Parliament President Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski were on Tuesday expected to present a final report on their mission to address the issue of “selective justice” in Ukraine, but requested more time to secure a Presidential pardon for Ms Tymoshenko before doing so.

European leaders describe Ms Tymoshenko’s seven-year sentence in 2011 for abuse of office as “politically-motivated” and have repeatedly demanded her release ahead of the Vilnius summit, where Ukraine is expected to take a momentous step away from the influence of Russia and towards the West by signing an Association Agreement with the EU. 

Rights groups have said Ms Tymoshenko’s ministerial role in a gas deal with Russia should not have been considered a criminal offence.

Yet the Ukrainian authorities appear determined to keep Tymoshenko behind bars. Justice Minister Olena Lukash told Interfax news agency on Tuesday that the President has no “legal basis” to pardon Ms Tymoshenko.

Mr Cox and Mr Kwaśniewski subsequently made a clear statement to the EU’s Conference of Presidents that Ukraine has so far failed to fulfil commitments made to the EU on the issue:

“In our opinion, these conditions, especially as regards Yulia Tymoshenko, still remain to be fulfilled. After 16 months and 22 missions, we conclude at this point in time that further work is required to ensure compliance.”

Mr Cox and Mr Kwaśniewski’s request for more time came despite an apparent breakthrough earlier this month when Ms Tymoshenko agreed that she would accept a pardon on grounds of ill-health, rather than hold out for her conviction to be overturned. Ms Tymoshenko is currently undergoing treatment in a prison hospital for a back problem, and requires surgery.

She said in a statement “for the sake of a successful Vilnius [summit] and successful Ukraine, for the sake of a historic and crucial, agreement with the EU, I am ready to accept this proposal” – leaving the ball firmly in the court of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Cox and Kwaśniewski report, now due just days before the summit begins on 28 November, will heavily influence the EU’s decision on whether to sign a ground-breaking political and trade agreement with Ukraine. Rights groups have expressed concerns that the EU may dilute its demands for reforms in Ukraine, and for Ms Tymoshenko’s release, in order to sign the deal at Vilnius.

The EU-Ukraine Association agreement would guarantee Ukraine free trade access to European markets in exchange for democratic and human rights reform. It would see Europe embrace the former Soviet Republic and move the country out from the overbearing shadow of neighbouring Russia, currently its largest trading partner.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to block the agreement by threatening “dire consequences” for Ukrainian goods in Russia should Ukraine sign the Association Agreement. The two countries also continue to bicker over Russian gas prices the Ukrainian government say have been inflated as a result of their pro-European stance.

Despite the difficulties, key European and Ukrainian officials remain optimistic that the agreement will be signed, and a deal brokered which would see Ms Tymoshenko released to Germany on “humanitarian grounds”. 

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, said:

“I think we are not far away from that… I definitely expect that to have happened before the Vilnius summit.”

Last week Ukraine’s current Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, told The Independent: “we are extremely close to resolving this matter.”

Yet some analysts believe Kiev is simply delaying Ms Tymoshenko’s release in order to distract European attention from other areas in which it has fallen short of the reform commitments made to the EU.

Tetyana Mazur, Director of Amnesty International’s Ukraine office, told The Independent:

“Tymoshenko’s case is just the tip of a human rights iceberg – the rule of law is undermined daily here. If the EU does sign this agreement, they must make very clear the areas where Ukraine falls short of meeting its human rights obligations, and what they expect to be done about that.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015