Protestors Flock To Tymoshenko’s Prison

KIEV, Ukraine -- Some 10,000 protesters are expected to turn out Thursday in Kharkiv in front of the prison where opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence, the Batkivshchyna party announced Wednesday.

Serhiy Vlasenko, lawyer of Yulia Tymoshenko, talks to journalists at the court building in Ukrainian city of Kharkiv prior to the opening of her latest trial on Thursday. The flamboyant but divisive 2004 Orange Revolution leader faces tax evasion and embezzlement charges relating to the time she spent leading a state power provider in the 1990s at the onset of her dramatic political career.

The protesters, organized by Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, have been flocking to Kharkiv from across Ukraine, but mostly from western regions of the country that remain her stronghold.

The massive rally is supposed to show support for the jailed political leader and also to put pressure on the authorities, accused by opposition figures of trying to disrupt unification process among opposition parties.

The Kharkiv local council, which is dominated by President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party, said Wednesday it will seek to ban the rally.

Council officials argued the rally may cause problems for Kharkiv commuters.

Meanwhile, Arseniy Yatseniuk, the most popular opposition leader after Tymoshenko, and who is expected to lead the united opposition party for October’s elections, on Wednesday was again denied a meeting with Tymoshenko in jail.

Tymoshenko must give her final approval to the unification deal that will put Yatseniuk at the top of the Batkivshchyna party, a plan that opposition figures believe would help to defeat President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party in October.

Ivan Pervushkin, the chief of the Kachanivska prison, said the meeting between Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko was denied because Tymoshenko’s had not been able to walk to a special meeting room.

“So, the meeting will most likely not be allowed,” Pervushkin told reporters.

“Everything is done in accordance with the law.”

Yatseniuk first requested the meeting on April 7 by sending a special paper to the Prosecutor General’s Office, which on April 17 had replied it had no authority of arranging such meetings.

The prosecutors said Yatseniuk should ask the State Prison Authority instead.

Yatseniuk accused the authorities of trying to “disrupt” the unification of the opposition groups, and said he will continue to seek the meeting with Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko has repeatedly urged the opposition groups to unite as soon as possible to have enough time to prepare for October’s elections.

The unification plan, which would have the two largest opposition parties, Batkivshchyna and the Front for Changes, merged into one group, was originally expected to be announced on March 31, but was postponed for at least a month.

The deal discussed between Batkivshchyna and the Front for Changes calls for Yatseniuk to lead the Batkivshchyna party, and for him and his allies to control 45% of seats in the party, people familiar with discussions said. Tymoshenko and her allies would control 55%, the people said.

The two parties, jointly with other opposition groups, are also supposed to agree on 225 candidates that will run against pro-government candidates in majority districts across Ukraine.

Half of Ukrainian 450-seat Parliament will be elected on party lists and half in individual constituencies.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

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