Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he’s prepared to consider pardoning jailed ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, whose imprisonment has been an obstacle in efforts to cement ties with the European Union.
Yanukovych told reporters today in the capital, Kiev, that he’d wait for the result of Lutsenko’s latest appeal at the former Soviet republic’s highest court before making a decision.
“If the court doesn’t release him, it will be my turn,” he said. “And I’ll consider pardoning him.”
The EU has postponed an association and free-trade agreement with Ukraine indefinitely after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 in a case the 27-member bloc deems an example of selective justice. It’s given the eastern European nation three months to carry out changes to its justice and electoral systems to seal the pact.
Ukraine should free Lutsenko, a long-time ally and member of Tymoshenko’s Cabinet who was handed a four-year sentence for abuse of power in 2012, Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Polish president who monitors Ukraine on behalf of the European Parliament, said yesterday in Kiev. The legislature must ratify the association accord once it’s signed.
Lutsenko and Tymoshenko, who’s serving a seven-year prison term, were key figures in the Orange Revolution that helped overturn Yanukovych’s 2004 presidential victory. Tymoshenko was convicted of abusing her powers as premier in signing a 2009 natural gas agreement with Russia that Yanukovych says costs his country $6 billion a year in losses. She denies wrongdoing.
“Tymoshenko’s case is very complicated -- the new criminal code allows leniency in economic cases but only if the state’s losses are covered,” Yanukovych said today. Tymoshenko “should think how to repay the losses she caused.”