Ukraine is widening a rift with the West over jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose lawyers want to take her case to the European Court for Human Rights, her daughter said.
A court in the capital, Kiev, held a hearing today to overturn Tymoshenko’s seven-year sentence for abuse of office and will resume the case Aug. 21. The appeal, which defense lawyers predict will be rejected, must be heard before the case can be sent to the human-rights court in Strasbourg, France, according to attorney Serhiy Vlasenko.
Tymoshenko, an ex-prime minister and co-leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, accuses President Viktor Yanukovych and his administration, which backed her arrest and incarceration, of corruption and violating democratic principles. Eugenia Tymoshenko said her mother is a victim of political persecution that’s destroying her health and eroding U.S. and European trust in the former Soviet republic.
“This whole attack on the freedom of speech, the abuse of law” is worsening Ukraine’s image and isolating it “not only from Europe, but from the democratic world,” Eugenia Tymoshenko said yesterday said in an interview in her mother’s party headquarters. “The main problem is that Yanukovych and his people, and main officials, they do not care about the political situation and the place of Ukraine in the world.”
The benchmark Ukrainian Equity Index, which has lost 26 percent this year, rose 0.1 percent to 1,074.88 by 12:30 p.m. in Kiev. The cost of insuring government debt against non-payment for five years with credit-default swaps is 834 basis points, down from 849 at end-2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Yulia Tymoshenko was convicted of harming Ukraine by signing a natural-gas supply and transit accord with Russia in January 2009, ending a price dispute that disrupted deliveries to at least 20 nations for two weeks amid freezing temperatures.
Yanukovych says the contract has caused $12 billion of losses in the last two years. Yulia Tymoshenko alleges the case against her is aimed at preventing her from participating in parliamentary elections set for Oct. 28.
Yanukovych’s Party of Regions has a narrow lead with 21.5 percent support, according to a May 31-June 6 poll of 2,000 eligible voters by the Kiev-based Democratic Initiative. Tymoshenko’s party has 20.4 percent backing, the survey showed. It had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.
The case has international implications for Ukraine, including the indefinite delay of an Association Agreement with the European Union to boost trade ties and economic integration.
Eugenia Tymoshenko, 32, a graduate of the London School of Economics, has been pressing her mother’s case around Europe, meeting political figures such as ex-European Parliament President Pat Cox, who saw the former premier in her hospital ward on Aug. 14, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
She also appealed on May 7 to Hans-Gert Poettering, the head of the Conrad Adenauer foundation and another former head of the European Parliament, to speak out about human-rights violations in Ukraine.
Since her arrest, Yulia Tymoshenko’s health has deteriorated, her daughter said, with chronic back problems and the effects of stress after an alleged attack in April by three penitentiary officials. She has been refused medical treatment by doctors she trusts for seven months, her daughter said.
Less than a month after she started an April 20 hunger strike, Yulia Tymoshenko was transferred to a hospital ward, where she is now kept under round-the-clock guard and video surveillance, her daughter said.
Because of her declining health, she is unable to attend hearings, prompting the court to postpone her appeal hearing on four occasions before today, even though she doesn’t need to be present for a ruling, her attorney said. Eugenia Tymoshenko said the delays were politically motivated by court officials under the control of the administration.
“Unfortunately this political repression continues,” she said. “Her health is still very bad, which is exaggerated by constant 24-hour psychological pressure on her in prison.”
Yanukovych said his political opponent’s prosecution was carried out in a transparent and legal manner.
“Crimes carried out in various criminal cases were carried out with Tymoshenko’s participation,” he said June 12. “This isn’t a secret for the whole world -- this happened.”
Eugenia Tymoshenko said Yanukovych and political associates are the guilty ones in her mother’s case.
“They care about self-enrichment and surround themselves with people that serve them and do not serve the rule of law,” she said.
Yulia Tymoshenko and Yanukovych have been political enemies since she stood with Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. The uprising drew millions of Ukrainians into the streets to demonstrate and led to the overturning of a presidential vote that first gave Yanukovych the victory and was later rerun to give Yushchenko the position as head of state.
Yulia Tymoshenko, as prime minister under Yushchenko, annulled the 2004 sale of steelmaker VAT Kryvorizhstal to Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma, who handpicked Yanukovych to replace him in 2004.
The plant was auctioned a year later and was bought by Mittal Steel Co. for $4.8 billion.
She ran against Yanukovych for president in 2010 to replace Yushchenko and lost by less than 3 percentage points. She appealed the vote results, giving up the fight two weeks later.
Tymoshenko was arrested on Aug. 5, 2011, and has been in detention ever since, with a conviction in October 2011.
While Eugenia Tymoshenko is hoping for her mother’s release “very soon, even “before elections” in October, she won’t follow in her mother’s footsteps by starting a political career.
Instead, she will concentrate on her mother’s case, keeping contact with organizations including the European Parliament, Transparency International and Amnesty International.
“I am not planning to become a politician, that’s for sure, because my mission is to say the truth about political repression,” she said. “I hope to continue what I am doing.”