Ukraine Parliament Blocked as Parties Seek Lawmaker’s Mandate

Ukrainian opposition parties blocked Parliament as a group backing President Viktor Yanukovych seeks to strip an ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko of his mandate.

Tymoshenko’s party, world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR party and the Svoboda party surrounded the speaker’s rostrum today in the capital, Kiev, keeping the session from getting underway.

“This is putting pressure on the opposition,” Klitschko said. “None of the lawmakers are being allowed to do his or her job as anyone can be stripped of their mandate any time.”

The European Union 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.

House Speaker Volodymyr Rybak asked Ukraine’s High Administrative Court on Feb. 28 to strip Serihy Vlasenko of his mandate because he was working both as a lawyer and a lawmaker. The Kiev-based court will consider the case today. Vlasenko denies the allegation saying he stopped practicing law in 2008.

Vlasenko said he helped Tymoshenko, who has been accused by prosecutors of being involved in the murder of a politician in 1996, as a defense counsel. Tymoshenko, who denies the charges, is already serving seven years in prison for abuse of power for signing a 10-year natural gas accord with Russia when she was premier.

EU Commissioners Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule are paying “particular attention to the situation related to the case of Serhiy Vlasenko” and “call on Ukrainian authorities to address this situation so as to avoid creating any perception of misuse of the judiciary for political purposes,” the two said in an e-mailed statement today.

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