Ukraine's EU Neighbors To Block Ties Over Tymoshenko

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The leaders of three central European countries will oppose Ukraine's efforts to integrate into the European Union as long as the former Soviet country keeps opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in jail.

Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, left her daughter Yevgenia, center, and her husband Alexander, right, and Judge Rodion Kireyev, back, are seen during her trial, at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of office and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a trial widely condemned in the West as politically motivated. Judge Rodion Kireyev also barred Tymoshenko, now the country's top opposition leader, from occupying government posts for three years and fined her 1.5 billion hryvna (US$190 million or euro140 million) for the damages her actions cost the state.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland said Tymoshenko's arrest had raised questions over whether Ukraine was adhering to human rights standards.

"We agreed that we support a pro-Western orientation of Ukraine," Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, who hosted the meeting in Prague, told journalists.

"On the other hand, we are saying openly that we cannot imagine we would smoothly ratify the association agreement with Ukraine in a situation when the judicial system in Ukraine does not work and when former Prime Minister Tymoshenko is imprisoned."

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the protection of human rights was "the most important European standard."

"As long as former Prime Minister Tymoshenko sits in jail, it is hard to speak of Ukraine meeting European standards," Tusk said.

Earlier this week, Ukraine jailed Tymoshenko for seven years for abuse of office in a trial that the United States and European Union say was politically motivated.

The state security service opened a new criminal case against her on Thursday, alleging her involvement in a "criminal conspiracy" 15 years ago to embezzle state funds through gas purchases from Russia.

The European Union has warned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that bilateral relations will suffer because of the trial and completion of an association agreement, including the creation of a free trade zone, is in doubt unless she is released.

Source: News Daily