Eugenia Carr: Save my mother, save my mother country

Eugenia Carr – the daughter of the jailed former Ukrainian premier Yulia Tymoshenko – is fighting for her country's future, says Oliver Poole

Kiev

Eugenia Carr insists she never wanted to be in politics. Until this year, she had never given a speech, never had to field calls from the world's media, never had to enter Lukyanivska, the 150-year-old jail that holds Ukraine's most notorious political prisoners.

She was happy running her restaurants and living with her British-born husband and their pet dogs in their English-style cottage on the outskirts of Kiev.

All that has changed.

For Carr, 31, is the only child of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who in October was sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged abuse of power when she signed a 2009 deal that left Ukraine paying a high price for Russian gas.

That propelled Carr into the international spotlight as her mother's most public defender. It has seen her not only adopt a political role but, it has been reported, pushed her marriage to the brink of collapse.

"I hate politics," she said, speaking at the central Kiev office that acts as the HQ of her mother's political vehicle since 1999, the Fatherland Party. "I am not strong like my mother.

"The first time I ever spoke in public was in September. I had to so that I could defend her from those trying to destroy all that was achieved in the Orange Revolution."

Carr sat beside Tymoshenko in court, resting her head on her mother's shoulder as the prison sentence was handed down.

Since then she has led demonstrations and, ahead of an expected appeal this month, is due to visit Europe and America to petition politicians to increase the pressure on Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

"My mother is ill," she said. "She has problems with her back so that she cannot walk well.

"She has infections on her skin; stomach problems. Her cell is cold and damp. There is no hot water. Her doctor is not allowed to visit her.

"She has become more philosophical. She is looking at the past and realising all the people who have abandoned her. She is a strong woman but nobody can be ready for such a situation, especially if they know that they are innocent."

The Orange Revolution saw President Yanukovych's 2004 electionvictory declared fraudulent by the Supreme Court amid huge street protests. But in a remarkable comeback, he beat Ms Tymoshenko in elections in February 2010.

Carr maintains her mother's sentence was "revenge" ahead of next year's parliamentary polls.

In person, she appeared frail and nervous, hunching forward and constantly turning to her political adviser for reassurance as she called for the West to impose sanctions or berated Mr Yanukovych for wanting to restore Soviet-style control.

Talking about Tymoshenko, she usually referred to her as "my mother" but at times – especially discussing her visits to the jail where Tymoshenko is kept in a 15 sq m cell with two other women – she was simply "Mum".

Prior to her mother's imprisonment, public interest had mainly focused on her unexpected choice of husband.

In 2005 she married tattooed Sean Carr, 42, who used to run a shoe-repair shop in Yorkshire when not singing with his heavy-metal band, Death Valley Screamers, after they met on holiday in Egypt.

The couple started restaurants in Kiev and Odessa and were seen at local Harley-Davidson rallies.

However, reports have surfaced that the pair are no longer living together – partly, it appears, as a result of pressures caused by the Tymoshenko trial and subsequent sentence.

Carr will not discuss reports of the split but knows she has to work to maintain public pressure for her mother's release. The EU has already warned Ukraine it believes the trial was politically motivated and planned agreements on political association and free trade could be jeopardised if Ms Tymoshenko remains jailed.

"Ukraine is under the magnifying glass and if there is no change, I do not see a European future for Ukraine," her daughter said.

"People in the Ukraine are angry at what is happening. The regime is making them poor, weak, suppressed.

"Already it is trying to stop public gatherings. That is why people must keep showing their anger – and they must do so now."

She alleged she was being followed by the secret police and her phone messages intercepted. It is evidence of the "dirty" nature of Ukrainian politics that, she says, made her try to "keep out of politics for so long".

"For me, politics is something that takes my mother away," she said, referring to not only Tymoshenko's present imprisonment but her arrest in 2001 on charges of tax evasion and document forgery.

Those charges were subsequently dropped, although the regime has recently sought to revive them.

"Politics here is something that is very different to in Britain. It is dirty," she continued. "When my mother is free, then she can be the politician again. But until then I must do what I can to get the message out. I have no choice. She is my mother."

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