Ukraine crisis: ‘I am convinced Yulia Tymoshenko is a real heroine’ says Eugenia

The former Prime Minister’s daughter says her mother is determined to continue the fight for justice and democracy

Kiev

Yulia Tymoshenko is in a wheelchair, suffering severe pain from her back and looks frail, but her daughter Eugenia is just thankful she has been freed from jail after nearly three years of torture.

In dramatic scenes nine days ago, the braided heroine of Ukraine’s last revolution a decade ago and the country’s former Prime Minister was released after a vote in parliament. She rushed to Kiev’s Independence Square to give a passionate speech to the protesters who won her freedom.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, her daughter – who stood behind her mother as she addressed the crowd – said the day was “like a surreal dream”.

“I was amazed she went straight there,” she said. “But it was the right decision to say thank you to the people and ask forgiveness for the mistakes of all politicians and the mistakes she made.”

Eugenia said it was the culmination of the most stressful 24 hours of her life. Her mother was held in Kharkiv, a stronghold of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, and her family feared for her life amid the violence of his overthrow.

“I knew the regime would stop at nothing and think nothing of spilling more blood so until I saw my mother I was very worried.”

Their legal team flew to collect her, while Eugenia prepared Plan B to drive nearly 300 miles by car. “When I saw her at the airport in Kiev I was so relieved – I still can’t believe it is real.”

She said her mother spent an emotional few hours with her own mother, who is 76 and she had not seen since being jailed, before going to the grave of the first protester killed in the square then returning to the political struggle.

Eugenia refused to say if her mother will stand again for office. But she is almost certainly gauging the possibility of a successful tilt at power. Her allies including the interim President Oleksandr Turchynov, were given key posts in Ukraine’s new government. Success hinges on how they grapple with Russia’s invasion of Crimea; Yulia herself rapidly issued a five-point action plan in response to the threat.

“My mother is working full-time to ensure the most just outcome for all Ukrainians, to get financial help for the country and to get new elections,” said Eugenia. “She does not place much importance on her own position.”

Yet the truth is the response to her mother’s return has been mixed; many Ukrainians want new leaders given the scale of corruption and incompetence that has blighted their nation.

Eugenia, 34, sipped lemon tea as we talked in her mother’s office in a Kiev suburb last week. Outside, the walls were hung with photographs of the former Prime Minister greeting crowds and meeting army officers.

The only time Eugenia paused was when I asked if she really wanted her mother back in the front line. She sighed, then said: “I know it is her mission, the fight of her life.”

For all her mother’s fame and wealth, accrued in the gas industry after the collapse of the Soviet Union, she endured a tough time after being jailed on what many believe to have been trumped-up charges of abusing her power in office.

Since being released, the woman who won power after the Orange Revolution has talked by telephone with the US Vice-President Joe Biden and met Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief who visited Ukraine last week. Reports claimed she was flying to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin, who is known to respect her – even reputedly calling her “the only man” in Ukrainian politics. Her office denied the stories.

Read more: Ukraine 'on the brink of war'
UK ministers to boycott Paralympics
Comment: Nato ‘betrayal’ pushing Putin to act
Editorial: restraint on all sides is necessary

Eugenia, who was educated in England, spent time at the Maidan protests and has close friends who were badly injured in the clashes. One almost had his leg amputated after being shot; others were savagely beaten by security forces.

“For four years beforehand we were wondering ‘Why did people not see what was going on?’ Then it was a relief that people started the protests against the government. It was a long struggle but should not have been done at such a terrible cost.”

Her daughter admits she remains worried about her mother. She is aware also there has been unsympathetic coverage around the world since Yulia’s release. “I know there has been hostile press – it looks well-organised to me. But I am convinced by her real heroism.”

“It is good people can criticise without being killed or kidnapped,” she added. “My mother said she understands the people don’t trust politicians. But we should remember many politicians joined the protests and stood there shoulder to shoulder with them.”

Now, like many in Ukraine, both mother and daughter say they want real change in their country – unsurprisingly, since the new government said last week $37 billion (£22 billion) went missing from state coffers under the deposed regime.

“Whatever politicians do must be controlled and checked by the people,” said Eugenia. “That is what it really means to be European.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Engineers / Senior Electronics Engineers

£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project