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Ukraine's Pardon of Lutsenko Is Welcomed, Signals Focus on European Integration



     Ukraine's Pardon of Lutsenko Is Welcomed, Signals Focus on European
                                 Integration

  PR Newswire

  KYIV, Ukraine, April 8, 2013

KYIV, Ukraine, April 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Senior European leaders have warmly welcomed the decision by Ukrainian
President Viktor Yanukovych to pardon and release the former Interior Minister
Yuriy Lutsenko and five others, who had been serving sentences for crimes
ranging from embezzlement to abuse of office, in what is being hailed as a
sign that Ukraine is unequivocably committed to European integration.

Lutsenko is a close ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and
was freed despite the fact that just days ago a court upheld his sentence and
ordered him to remain in custody until December 2014.

The decision was immediately welcomed by European Commissioner for Enlargement
and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle, who only last month praised the
"encouraging signals from Kyiv."

In his Twitter feed, Füle called the pardons the "first but important step
aimed at resolving the problem of selective justice."

Former European Commission President Romano Prodi, who has urged the EU to
embrace a wide-ranging free trade pact with Ukraine as "a strategic move very
much in Europe's interest," also praised the move by President Yanukovych.

"I am very pleased to see Ukraine's leader acting on humanitarian grounds, and
I sincerely hope that my colleagues across the European Union will now move
ahead to sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine later this year," said
Prodi.

"Ukraine," he added, "is important to Europe as a market of 46 million people,
as a source of economic growth, and, with its vast shale gas reserves, for our
energy security. It can also serve as the bridge between Europe and Russia."

In Poland, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the pardon was "a good step
that will help restore a good image of Ukraine."

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, called the
ex-minister's release an encouraging move, saying that "fair and independent
justice is needed in Ukraine, and the release of Mr. Lutsenko is a step in the
right direction."

In Kyiv, Jorge Zukoski, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, in
Ukraine, said the business community also welcomed the pardons.

"It is perceived as a concrete step by senior policy makers towards
implementing European values at a time when there is uncertainty in regards to
the ultimate path Ukraine will take regarding geopolitical alignment," Mr
Zukoski said.

Mr. Yanukovych's office said the pardons were a move to "humanise" Ukrainian
law and reduce the number of people in prison. A government spokesman added
Ukraine is listening and responding to what the world says - especially
Europe, with which it expects to sign an Association Agreement in November.

"Ukraine has a positive dialogue with the EU and these pardons show we are
about actions, not just words," a Government spokesman said.

"Humanising our laws goes deeper than what happened today (Sunday)," the
spokesman said. "In the past two years we have totally overhauled our criminal
procedures code in line with international standards of justice. But yes,
Yanukovych has signalled the door is ajar."

That was an oblique reference to jailed former Prime Minister Yulia
Tymoshenko. She is currently serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office
by concluding in 2009 a gas deal with Gazprom that to this day forces her
nation to pay the highest prices in Europe for Russian gas.

Contact: Andrea Giannotti (+447825-892-640)
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