Yulia Tymoshenko, the erstwhile Orange Revolution co-leader jailed for abuse of office, could be released from prison this autumn and allowed to travel to Germany for medical treatment under a deal being thrashed out between the authorities in Kiev and European intermediaries.
The European Union (EU) has made the solution of the dispute a prerequisite of closer ties with the former Soviet republic.
Serving a seven-year term for abuse of power concerning past energy deals with Russia, she has been in hospital since May 2012 suffering from a spinal hernia. Doctors from the Berlin-based Charite clinic have been involved in her treatment.
Renat Kuzmin, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prosecutor General, said Tymoshenko could be sent to Germany for further treatment. “Such a possibility is not prohibited by law,” he said at his Kiev office. “If certain political and legal decisions are taken, it’s possible.” He refused to specify the terms under which she could stay in Germany.
European officials have been quietly pushing for a solution, with the affair severely testing relations between Brussels and Kiev.
“There are some plans, certain proposals have been made. Now we are waiting for a response, and we’ll see,” Alexander Kwasniewski, the European Parliament’s envoy and a former Polish President, told Polish Radio.
Tymoshenko shot to prominence during the Orange Revolution, the Ukrainian people’s uprising against fraudulent elections that ultimately prevented Viktor Yanukovych from assuming the presidency in 2004. Mr. Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko in the 2010 election by three percentage points to become President. Criminal cases against her were opened later that year.
She was later jailed in 2011 for abuse of power. The case was widely seen as an attempt by Mr. Yanukovych to keep his rival out of the 2015 presidential elections. Insiders claim that she been reluctant to leave Ukraine for treatment because she does not want to desert her power base. They now say she may be about to change her mind.
Her daughter Eugenia said she liked the idea of sending her mother for treatment abroad, though she did not know her mother’s exact thoughts.
“This decision depends not on us. It depends only on one person — Yanukovych,” she said. “But if this decision is made, it doesn’t make sense for her to refuse this, because she definitely needs this treatment. This is what I think as a daughter.” “The Ukrainian doctors take care of her, but they stay under constant pressure and they always have to follow the instructions coming from above,” Eugenia Tymoshenko said. Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta thinktank, said: “It looks like there are preliminary agreements between Tymoshenko and those in power. Now the technical talks are going on around finding some guarantees and at least some mechanisms of limiting her freedom.”
Tymoshenko is facing separate charges of fraud and tax evasion. She was also charged in January with allegedly financing the 1996 murder of the Ukrainian MP Yevhen Shcherban, for which she could get a life sentence. “We have enough proof of Tymoshenko’s involvement in this crime,” Mr. Kuzmin said. “It will go to the court, when Tymoshenko at last gets better and the doctors allow her to participate in the investigative actions.”
Tymoshenko has branded as absurd any links between her and Shcherban’s murder. “When Yanukovych ordered to start political persecutions against me I was joking that soon they will accuse me of murder. Now my joke has become a reality,” she wrote in a letter from jail.
Her business career dates back to the chaotic 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when she earned the nickname “gas princess” after becoming a supremely wealthy oligarch. Mr. Kuzmin claims she routinely broke the law but managed to avoid criminal prosecution. “From 1995 to 2011 some 25 criminal cases have been opened against her in Ukraine and Russia,” Mr. Kuzmin said.
“As long as court hearings on Tymoshenko cases are not finished it is impossible to consider a pardon.” Mr. Fesenko said that once European officials had realised a pardon for Tymoshenko would be impossible, they started to push a plan of sending her abroad. He said the chances of such a move remained high despite opposition from influential figures within Yanukovych’s inner circle.
“I think all will be finally decided at the last moment — sometime in August-September,” he said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013