Ukraine President Pardons Lutsenko Amid Bid for EU Trade Pact

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych pardoned jailed former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a move that may bolster damaged ties with the European Union.

Lutsenko, who was serving a four-year sentence for abuse of power and is an ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was pardoned along with Tymoshenko’s then-Environment Minister Heorhiy Filipchuk, according to a decree on the president’s website.

The EU delayed an association and free-trade deal with Ukraine indefinitely after Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 in a case the 27-member bloc deems an example of selective justice. It has sought changes to Ukraine’s justice and electoral systems as a condition for the agreement.

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 resulted in his country being overcharged $6 billion a year. She denies wrongdoing.

The pardons were welcomed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, who called it “first but important step” in dealing with selective justice, in a Twitter posting today.

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