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Tymoshenko Murder Case Is Disaster for Ukraine, EU Official Says

The murder charge against jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is a “political disaster” for Ukraine, a European Union official said.

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on Tymoshenko’s conviction for abuse of office may come next month, according to Aleksander Kwasniewski, an ex-Polish president who monitors her situation on behalf of the European Parliament. Ukraine should maintain her medical treatment for back pain and free her former colleague Yuriy Lutsenko from prison, he said.

“The new case against Tymoshenko is a political disaster,” Kwasniewski told a conference organized by investment bank Dragon Capital today in the capital, Kiev. “Lutsenko’s case isn’t serious. Each day he’s in prison is bad for Ukraine’s image.”

The EU postponed an association and free-trade agreement with Ukraine indefinitely after Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 in a case the bloc deems politically motivated. It’s given the country three months to carry out changes to its justice and electoral systems to seal the pact, which must be ratified by the European Parliament. Prosecutors accused Tymoshenko last month of organizing the 1996 murder of lawmaker Evhen Shcherban.

Tymoshenko, who’s serving seven years in prison for signing a 2009 energy contract with Russia that officials say damaged Ukraine’s interests, appealed to the Strasbourg-based rights court after exhausting domestic avenues for appeal. While she’s currently hospitalized, which is delaying the start of her murder trial, a Health Ministry commission said last week that she should be discharged. She denies involvement in the murder.

Lutsenko, an interior minister in Tymoshenko’s government, should be released by mid-April to show Ukraine’s commitment to closer European integration, according to Kwasniewski.

President Viktor Yanukovych, who attended the EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels on Feb. 25, said he’ll respect the European Court of Human Rights’ decision on Tymoshenko, Kwasniewski said, urging the authorities not to “complicate her situation.”

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