Tymoshenko To Be Freed Soon, Daughter Says

KIEV, Ukraine -- For the last few months, the people who visited Yulia V. Tymoshenko in Detention Center No. 13 have been slipping something into the stacks of documents they bring her to read — the handwritten notes known in prison slang as “molyava,” exchanged by generations of Soviet inmates, who would crumple them into pea-sized balls or roll them into narrow cones and shoot them out of blow-pipes.

Dr. Hryhoriy Nemyria

These were not ordinary molyava, but notes that had been solicited from politicians in Europe — two presidents, two prime ministers and three foreign ministers, among others, said Hryhoriy Nemyria, a former deputy prime minister and adviser to Ms. Tymoshenko.

She would read them and then pass them back, so that prison staff would not find them in their twice-daily searches of her cell, said Ms. Tymoshenko’s daughter, Yevhenia Carr.

“They write something like ‘Keep up your spirits, we are with you and will not let you down,’” Ms. Carr said on Wednesday, a day after Ms. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison.

“It’s better than the statements in the newspapers or on the news, because it’s a personal kind of promise to her that she is not alone.”

Over the coming days, it should become clear exactly how much Ms. Tymoshenko has been helped by her friends in the West.

Tuesday’s verdict, in a case widely seen as politically motivated, was greeted with such international condemnation that it may wreck Ukraine’s free trade and association agreement with the European Union, which has reached its final stages.

On Wednesday, an adviser to Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told the Interfax news service that the president canceled a scheduled meeting with Ukraine’s foreign minister, who was visiting the Estonian capital, “due to changes in the president’s schedule.”

He went on to call Ukraine’s drift from democratic practices “a great loss for the whole of Europe.”

The prospect of international isolation has put Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, in an extraordinarily difficult spot.

Western pressure has produced a deadline of sorts — on October 20, Mr. Yanukovich is set to attend a long-planned meeting in Brussels, and some European Union officials have suggested that they may refuse to receive him there.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry was cagey about the date on Wednesday, saying it has never been officially announced, “so how can we talk about its cancellation?”

A narrow loophole will appear two days earlier, on the 18th, when Ukraine’s parliament convenes to discuss a draft measure that might decriminalize the law under which Ms. Tymoshenko was prosecuted.

An opposition lawmaker, Arseniy Yatseniuk, said on Wednesday that the president could sign the proposal into law the same day, so that “the authorities will face minimal losses in this situation.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Carr said she expects her mother to be free very soon.

“All the signals indicate that before the 20th something should happen,” Ms. Carr said.

“The result of the trial is already a big mistake, a big kind of technical error. It’s just the story of one person’s revenge.”

A senior Western diplomat posted in Kiev said on Wednesday that the real test of Mr. Yanukovich’s intentions will take place in the coming days.

Western envoys see decriminalization as an acceptable outcome, if it clears not only Ms. Tymoshenko but several other politicians who have been arrested, so that they can participate in upcoming elections, the diplomat said.

“What Europe wants to see is people not being prosecuted for their political opinion and are able to participate in the political process,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with protocol.

“If the end result is that, I don’t think it’s in any way strange. You can argue that it shows the E.U. and the U.S. are able to have some influence on events in Ukraine.”

It may be premature to assume that the case will be resolved next week, however; if the draft law presented next week is vague, or parliamentary debate is postponed, European nations may have to make a snap decision about how harshly to treat Mr. Yanukovich.

Hryhoriy Perepelytsya, a foreign policy specialist and professor at Kiev’s National University, said he believes Mr. Yanukovich is in “a state of slight shock” at the West’s response.

Ukrainian officials had been watching the “reset” in relations between Russia and the United States, in which American officials understook strategic projects with Russia despite complaints about the country’s democratic credentials, and thought the same would be true for Ukraine, he said.

Meanwhile, in a country whose electorate is divided between the Russified east and a Ukrainian-speaking west, the president’s worries about the political threat Ms. Tymoshenko poses have not gone away.

Ms. Tymoshenko, whose base is in the west, lost last year’s presidential election by a narrow margin and has ridiculed the president as a coward and dimwitted pawn of Ukraine’s oligarchs.

“He has a very serious problem,” said Mr. Perepelytsya.

“He can go to the West, and realize his policy of European integration, or protect his monopoly on power in the country.”

Indeed, Ms. Tymoshenko’s daughter said without hesitation that she expects her mother to be president of Ukraine someday.

During her months in prison, she said, Ms. Tymoshenko managed to convince her fellow inmates to join her in daily exercises, jogging regularly in a six-by-six meter (20-by-20 feet) recreation yard. She persuaded one woman to stop smoking, Ms Carr said.

She said that, even in the solitude of the detention center, Ms. Tymoshenko has tried to read the Bible, but found it difficult to focus her attention anything other than politics.

Ms. Carr said the trial would ultimately benefit her mother’s career, allowing voters “to see the real her, behind all the dirt and accusations and empty messages.”

Source: The New York Times