McCain, Martens Urge Travel OK For Yulia

NEW YORK, USA -- US Senator John McCain and European People's Party President Wilfried Martens jointly urged the Ukrainian authorities to let former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko leave the country for a political meeting in Brussels.

US Senator John McCain

"We jointly call on the Ukrainian authorities to allow Yulia Tymoshenko to attend the EPP (European People's Party) Summit in Brussels on March 24, 2011," they said in a joint statement.

The statement comes days after US Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call with President Viktor Yanukovych, voiced concerns over “selective prosecution” of opposition politicians and warned against legislation that may undermine foreign investment.

Tymoshenko, the leader of the largest opposition party in Ukraine, was twice denied by the authorities the right to visit Brussels after prosecutors imposed travel restrictions on her.

But on March 1, however, the prosecutors suddenly allowed Tymoshenko to visit her mother in Dnipropetrovsk on March 8, potentially indicating that international travel restrictions may also be eased.

Tymoshenko, who lost the presidential election to Yanukovych in February 2010, is charged with abuse of power while prime minister in 2009.

In particular, the authorities accuse her of diverting some environmental funds towards payment of pensions in 2009, while other charges allege her government had ordered the purchase of ill-equipped ambulances.

Tymoshenko denied the charges as politically motivated.

Two ministers from her government have been arrested on similar charges and now awaiting court rulings, while one minister has been granted an asylum in the Czech Republic amid concerns the authorities have been resorting to political persecution.

McCain and Martens echoed those concerns in the statement.

"We also call on the authorities to reconsider what could be viewed as selective prosecution of members of the opposition in Ukraine," they said.

Tymoshenko was invited to join a summit of the European People’s Party in Brussels on March 23-24, during which she will be able to meet a number of European Union leaders.

The pressure on Tymoshenko intensified late last year after she had repeatedly traveled to Brussels to criticize Yanukovych on international arena.

After one such trip last year, an anonymous caller phoned Tymoshenko and told her that she will “cough up blood” unless she stops criticizing Yanukovych internationally.

A criminal investigation was opened shortly afterwards, and her travel restrictions had been imposed.

Source: Ukrainian Journal