Thursday, 17 November 2011

Yanukovych Defiant After Wroclaw Meeting

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych emerged defiant Tuesday after a meeting with European leaders, predicting more problems for his jailed political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko and making the country’s future European integration less certain.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and German President Christian Wulff, at a meeting in Wroclaw, tried to persuade Yanukovych to release Tymoshenko to clear the way for important trade and political deals next month.

But emerging after the meeting, Yanukovych said Tymoshenko, jailed for seven years for negotiating a controversial gas agreement with Russia, will be facing new criminal investigations.

“Other directions of Tymoshenko’s activity are being investigated,” Yanukovych told reporters.

“Unconditionally, investigators and law enforcement organs must give an answer. Based on these investigations, decisions will be made. Maybe the [cases] will get to court, or maybe not.”

“Time goes by and today we cannot predict how all this will end,” he said.

There is a broad perception in Europe and in the U.S. that Tymoshenko’s prosecution is politically motivated, a charge that the Yanukovych administration has repeatedly denied.

The meeting between Yanukovych, Komorowski and Wulff was perhaps the last opportunity to save the free trade and political association deals that Ukraine and the EU plan to initial on December 19.

The failure to initial and later ratify the deals will most likely postpone Ukraine’s integration with the EU for years to come, pushing the country towards closer cooperation with Russia.

EU’s top officials last month already postponed a meeting with Yanukovych in Brussels after Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, had been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Yanukovych has reportedly promised European politicians in September to ease the pressure on Tymoshenko and perhaps to release her, but had apparently later changed his mind, leaving the free trade and political association deals in limbo.

The Regions Party, the largest group in Parliament strictly controlled by Yanukovych, on Tuesday refused to support amendments canceling criminal prosecution for abusing authority.

The amendments, suggested by opposition groups, were aimed at allowing to release Tymoshenko from jail.

The apparent reverse of Yanukovych’s foreign policy comes after Kiev and Moscow have made progress in talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev over lower natural gas prices on September 24.

No details of the talks have been released, while the discussed agreement has been kept in secret.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is likely to become Russia’s next president after election in March 2012, said recently Ukraine could qualify for lower gas prices by reversing its pro-European course.

Yanukovych admitted on Tuesday that the jailing of Tymoshenko is the biggest factor that may derail the free trade and political association deals with the EU.

“This issue without a doubt is one of issues that today hamper most likely ratification of these agreements perhaps by some countries,” Yanukovych said.

Although the deals have been already agreed upon by negotiators, Ukraine has continued to insist that the deals must contain wording clearly allowing Ukraine to join the EU in the future.

Taking into account mounting financial and debt problems in the EU, such wording is extremely unlikely, with some analysts suggesting Ukraine’s insistence maybe de-facto showing Yanukovych has decided against proceeding with the deal.

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