5 EU Countries Warn Ukraine On Crackdown

NEW YORK, USA -- Five countries of the European Union on Sunday warned Ukraine that a comprehensive political and trade deal was deadlocked by Kiev’s apparent crackdown on opposition leaders.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Britain, Sweden, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic also said the relations may further deteriorate in October if the government blocks the opposition leaders from running for seats in Parliament.

“Today we are at an impasse in the association process,” foreign ministers of the five countries wrote in an article published by The New York Times.

“The way forward — through signing and ratification of the agreement — has in effect been blocked by Ukraine’s actions.”

The article, signed by William Hague, Carl Bildt, Guido Westerwelle, Radoslaw Sikorski and Karel Schwarzenberg, respectively, is strongest yet criticism of the Ukrainian authorities since Viktor Yanukovych had won the presidency two years ago.

The article comes only days after Yanukovych has ordered Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to make sure that Ukraine was ready by April 2 to sign the political association and trade agreement.

The deal was negotiated last year and was originally supposed to be signed in December 2011, but had been delayed indefinitely after the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in October 2011 to seven years in prison.

The prospects for the deal further worsened last week after Yuriy Lutsenko, a former interior minister in the Tymoshneko government, was jailed to four years in prison for alleged abuse of power.

Brussels and other foreign governments saw Tymoshenko's and Lutsenko’s trials as politically motivated.

“These trials bear the marks of politically motivated and selective justice,” the five foreign ministers wrote in the article.

“According to independent experts, they have been conducted in a manner that has failed to respect the principles of the rule of law and the human rights of the defendants.”

“These developments are incompatible with Ukraine’s own European choice,” the ministers wrote.

“It is fair to say that the association agreement has been imprisoned, and the Ukrainian leadership is holding the key.”

Ukraine will have its next political test in October at upcoming parliamentary elections, and should the authorities fails to allow the opposition leaders to run for seats in Parliament this may significantly deteriorate relations between Kiev and Brussels.

“This will be a litmus test for democracy,” the minister wrote.

“This includes ensuring that the opposition is allowed to participate fully.”

“We wish to underline that ultimately, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all political parties, including the opposition and its leaders, are able to participate on equal terms,” the ministers said.

“Our goal is to anchor Ukraine in the European family, as symbolized through the signing and ratification of the association agreement,” the ministers wrote.

“We call on the Ukrainian leadership to display the political courage and wisdom needed for this to happen.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal