Ukraine: Tymoshenko jail sentence isolates Kiev

12 October 2011
Gazeta Wyborcza

Gazeta Wyborcza, 12 October 2011

“A political trial”, headlines Gazeta Wyborcza the day after a Ukrainian court sentenced former PM Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years’ prison for alleged abuse of office over a gas deal she had signed with Russia in 2009. She was also fined more than €142m euro and banned from taking part in political life for three years after her sentence runs out.

For Gazeta Wyborcza, this is a clear sign that Ukraine has returned to the authoritarian rule. “Who called Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenka ‘Europe’s last dictator’? Optimists. A new one is being born in Ukraine, only seven years after the colourful and peaceful revolution cheered the world”, notes the Warsaw daily’s leader, alluding to the Orange Revolution which triggered democratic change in Ukraine and pitted Tymoshenko against Yanukovych.

Konstantin Bondarenko, head of the Institute for Ukrainian Politics in Kiev speculates in Rzeczpospolita that Tymoshenko may be released from jail if the Kiev parliament passes proposed amendments to the criminal code decriminalizing the articles under which the former PM was convicted.

This verdict – harshly criticised across Europe – could be a major obstacle to the signature and ratification of the association and free-trade agreement which Brussels and Kiev had hoped to sign by the end of the year.According to the Guardian, “with Ukraine co-hosting Euro 2012, former prime minister Tymoshenko's jail sentence leaves Kiev prone to EU pressure”.