Europeans Set To Snub Yanukovych At Davos

KIEV, Ukraine -- European leaders will try to avoid meetings with President Viktor Yanukovych in Davos amid concerns over political persecution of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a newswire reported Monday, citing a European Commission source.

Viktor Yanukovych

Yanukovych will travel to Davos on Wednesday for a three-day visit to participate in the World Economic Forum, as he plans to address issues of regional energy security, according to the presidential administration.

The administration, in a report on Monday, did not mention any bilateral meetings involving Yanukovych scheduled in Davos.

Ukrainian diplomats over the past 30 days have been desperately trying to arrange such meetings, but those efforts have failed, the source said.

“Viktor Yanukovych might have a chance to talk to European Union leaders at sidelines of the forum, or he may come across a leader by accident in a corridor, but we don’t have any specially arranged meetings scheduled in our plans,” LIGAbiznesInform quoted the source as saying.

Moreover, the EU will most likely postpone any financial assistance to Ukraine this year, while some European politicians have been exploring the idea of slapping sanctions against Ukrainian officials, the news agency reported.

The developments underscore the high degree of frustration among European leaders over the way Ukrainian authorities handle the Tymoshenko case.

She was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in prison for negotiating a controversial gas agreement with Russia in January 2009.

Yanukovych on several occasions last year privately promised senior European officials that Tymoshenko will be released, but had later refused to deliver on the promise, people familiar with the issue said.

Tymoshenko, who lost appeal last month in Kiev, is currently serving the sentence in a remote prison in the Kharkiv region.

She denied any wrongdoing and said the sentence had been politically motivated.

The European Union has already once canceled a scheduled meeting with Yanukovych in Brussels in October 2011 because of concerns over judicial standards following the jailing of Tymoshenko.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton then said the EU wanted Ukraine "to make improvement on important issues, such as the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary."

The refusal to schedule the bilateral meetings in Davos this week shows that Ukraine has probably not made any significant progress on these issues.

The developments are a setback for Yanukovych, who said on Sunday that Ukraine will later this year sign an association agreement, including free trade deal, with the EU.

Source: Ukrainian Journal