Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ukraine President Signals He May Yield On Tymoshenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych hinted Friday he might yield to increasing Western pressure and end the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by changing Ukraine's criminal code.
Speaking at a conference in Yalta, Mr. Yanukovych distanced himself from the trial of the opposition leader, calling it "very painful."

He said he hoped that the criminal code would be "modernized" this year.

Political analysts said such an overhaul could decriminalize the article under which Ms. Tymoshenko is being tried.

The criminal code dates to 1962, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, the president said. "That, undoubtedly, is nonsense," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on his website.

The prosecution of Ms. Tymoshenko on abuse-of-office charges over a gas deal she struck with Russia in 2009 has threatened to hamper Mr. Yanukovych's push for deeper economic and political ties with the European Union.

Senior European politicians have warned that the failure to free Ms. Tymoshenko could lead to refusal by parliaments of some EU states to ratify an association agreement.

The trial judge called an unexpected two-week pause in proceedings Monday, three days after a joint letter to Mr. Yanukovych by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton raised concerns about the case.

Analysts said the recess gives Mr. Yanukovych an opportunity to find a way out of the prosecution of Ms. Tymoshenko, a longtime rival.

She accuses him of carrying out a political vendetta and using the trial to remove his leading opponent from the political scene.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said after a meeting with Mr. Yanukovych on Friday: "We have been fully assured about his commitment to finding a solution," Reuters news agency reported. "We would like to see her being fully a part of political life," Mr. Fule said.
Russia's leaders have tried to tempt Mr. Yanukovych with an offer of lower gas prices, which Ukraine has long sought, in return for his agreement to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union.

On Friday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Mr. Yanukovych's declared aim of joining the EU is "completely unrealistic," Interfax news agency reported.

Mr. Yanukovych, who will travel to Moscow on Sept. 24, repeated his rejection of Russia's offer.

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