Exclusive: Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko ‘extremely close’ to being released in EU deal

Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, confirms that a pardon is possible ahead of summit

Kiev

Ukraine is “extremely close” to securing a deal which would free opposition politician and cause célèbre Yulia Tymoshenko on “humanitarian grounds”, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has confirmed in an interview with The Independent.

The European Union has demanded that Ms Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power over her role in a gas deal with Russia, be released ahead of a summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, at the end of November.

At the summit, Ukraine is expected to take a historic step towards the West by signing an Association Agreement with the EU. Supporters of Ms Tymoshenko, who is regarded as President Viktor Yanukovich’s main political rival, say the charges against her are politically motivated.

Ms Tymoshenko’s detention had been seen as an obstacle to the signing of the accord, which would allow freer trade between the EU and Ukraine, and is seen as a make-or-break opportunity for the former Soviet country to move out of the orbit of Russia, which remains Ukraine’s biggest trading partner.

“We are extremely close to resolving this matter,” Mr Azarov said when asked about Ms Tymoshenko’s case. “Neither the government nor the President has any intention of preventing the Association Agreement from being signed… I see no impediments [on this].”

The Association Agreement is seen as a first step on the ladder towards EU membership for Ukraine, but it comes with many conditions for Kiev, including significant reforms on democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and tackling corruption, as well as the resolution of the Tymoshenko case, which is seen as a symbol of “selective justice” in Ukraine.

It has been suggested that Ms Tymoshenko, who is currently receiving treatment for back trouble in a prison hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, could travel to Germany for medical attention if she receives a pardon from Mr Yanukovich.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who had a two-hour meeting with Mr Yanukovich, described the talks as “constructive and intensive” but “complicated from both a political and judicial point of view”.  

Ms Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, indicated publicly for the first time last week that she is ready to accept an offer to go to Germany for treatment, for the sake of a “successful” Vilnius summit.

“I believe that this step will ease the situation on the eve of the summit of the Eastern Partnership,” 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.”

However, she also vowed that she would not give up the fight against what she termed Mr Yanukovich’s “dictatorship”. Mr Azarov said that he believed the European leaders had been convinced by court documents and the case history that Ms Tymoshenko had committed a “real crime” by agreeing to pay a severely inflated price for Russian gas, costing the country “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

He said the Ukrainian leadership had subsequently been asked to consider freeing her “guided by a humanitarian attitude” since she “is a woman, a politician, and she is sick”.

It is not clear why Ukraine would have been asked to consider her gender and profession in its deliberations. Mr Azarov did not elaborate.

The European Parliament appointed a commission headed by former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Irish politician Pat Cox to report on the success of Ukraine’s reform process, and their mediation on Ms Tymoshenko’s possible release. European Parlia-ment President Martin Schulz has said the report will be presented on 15 October and he is “confident” that Tymoshenko’s case will be resolved.

Mr Azarov said that one of the “greatest successes” of the mission was that Europe no longer saw Ms Tymoshenko’s case as “black and white” with the Ukrainian leadership “black” and Ms Tymoshenko “white”.

Speaking on the first of a two-day trip to Kiev ahead of the summit, Mr Westerwelle acknowledged  that “millions of people in this country believe that Mrs Tymoshenko carried out a crime which was confirmed by a Ukrainian court.”

Ms Tymoshenko won widespread support for her role in Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” against a corrupt election in 2004, which overturned the proclaimed victory for Mr Yanukovich. Some analysts say Tymoshenko could still be Mr Yanukovich’s only credible rival for the presidential elections in 2015.

Mr Azarov said that a “concerted move” must now be made by Ms Tymoshenko on the matter of her release, and that this was now “being conducted”.

However, Natasha Lysova, a spokeswoman for Ms Tymoshenko, insisted that “the ball is still in Mr Yanukovich’s court” and that they were continuing to wait to hear his decision on whether or not she will be freed.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker