Husband Of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Leader Yulia Tymoshenko Seeks Czech Asylum

KIEV, Ukraine -- The husband of Yulia Tymoshenko — the former Ukrainian prime minister swept to power in the Orange Revolution who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of office in connection with gas deals sealed with Russia in 2009 — has reportedly applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, where he has business interests.

Olexandr Tymoshenko with his wife Yulia in Kiev court.

The daily Právo reported Friday that Oleksandr Tymoshenko, 51, who rarely appeared in public before his wife’s arrest in August 2011 and has never been personally involved in her opposition party, Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, is likely to be granted asylum; Interior Minister Jan Kubice and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have already begun discussions on the issue, it said.

The European Union has questioned repeatedly expressed concerns about handling of the case against the co-leader of the Orange Revolution.

When the Kiev Court of Appeals last month upheld the verdict passed down upon her, the spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton issued the following statement:

“The High Representative wishes to express her concern that the appeals process did not adequately address failings in the original trial of Mrs Tymoshenko, a trial which did not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal processes.”

For its part, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement the trial “illustrates how far away the Ukrainian understanding of criminal and political responsibility is from the EU one” and said the Czech Republic cannot accept the verdict, warning that the country would cease support for expansion of EU cooperation with Ukraine as long as there are “political prisoners” in the country.

As part of Tymoshenko's sentence, Judge Rodion Kireyev said her actions had caused the state damages amounting to 1.5 billion hryvna (some $190 million) and he fined her that amount.

She was also banned for participating in politics for the duration of her sentence.

Amnesty International called for Tymoshenko's immediate release, saying she had been convicted of charges that were “not internationally recognizable offenses.”

Souring bilateral relations

Relations between the Czech Republic and Ukraine deteriorated rapidly after Prague granted political asylum in January 2011 to former economics minister in Tymoshenko’s government (2007–2010), Bohdan Danylyshyn, which led to expulsions of Czech diplomats from Ukraine and the closure of visa departments of Czech consulates in Ukraine.

Bilateral relations would undoubtedly be further strained if Oleksandr Tymoshenko — who was charged by Ukrainian authorities early in the past decade over alleged shady energy deals — is also given refuge here.

In August 2000 he was arrested along with his wife, a fellow board member of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), on charges of embezzling the equivalent of $800,000 in public funds and forging customs documents to import gas from Russia.

The charges were all based on activities from the 1990s.

Although he was released just shy of a year later due to a lack of evidence to proceed to trial, the prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling and continued its case against him.

Oleksandr spent two years in hiding to avoid prosecution on charges that he and Yulia said were trumped up.

“It cannot be ruled out that (the Ukrainian) authorities have focused on her husband again,” Právo said.

On November 16, 2010 the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko faction in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) was officially renamed “Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko-Batkivschyna.”

It enjoys most of its support in central Ukraine and western provinces where there are fewer Russian speakers.

The parties announced that People's Self-Defense Political Party would be merged into All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland” in December 2011, first deputy head of the party Oleksandr Turchynov said.

Source: Czech Position