Ukraine Promises Free And Fair Elections

NEW YORK, USA -- Ukraine’s top diplomat promised fair and free parliamentary elections in October, but offered few clues to whether jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders will be able to run for seats.

Kostiantyn Hryshchenko

Kostiantyn Hryshchenko, Ukraine’s foreign minister, in an article published by The New York Times, responded to criticism 17 days ago from five European Union countries over declining democracy in Ukraine.

Britain, Sweden, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic jointly warned Ukraine that relations may seriously deteriorate in October if the government blocks the opposition leaders from running for seats.

But Hryshchenko said the fate of Tymoshenko, as well as former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko and other opposition leaders will be decided in courts, not by the government.

He also pointed to several investigations and charges against opposition leaders in other EU countries.

“My colleagues refer to trials of former Ukrainian officials on corruption charges,” Hryshchenko wrote.

“Those cases are very similar to indictments of former officials across Europe (trials in Croatia or Iceland are examples).”

“The principle is the same: Whatever the court’s decision is, it is to be respected — domestically and internationally. The way to challenge it is to go to a higher court of law.”

William Hague, Carl Bildt, Guido Westerwelle, Radoslaw Sikorski and Karel Schwarzenberg, respectively, in their article that was also published by The New York Times, accused Ukraine of using selective justice system to punish the opposition leaders.

“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.”

Responding to the alleged persecution of the opposition leader, the EU postponed a political and free trade agreement with Ukraine.

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

The prospects for the deal further worsened last month after Lutsenko was jailed to four years in prison for alleged abuse of power.

Hryshchenko vowed that Ukraine will run free and fair elections in October, and said the government had already invited international election observers to prove that.

“Today, Ukraine is approaching parliamentary elections. The president has stated publicly his commitment to hold them freely and fairly, in accordance with our new election law, based on European standards and endorsed by both coalition and opposition parties,” Hryshchenko said.

He also said Ukraine is committed to “painful” reforms that the “previous governments did not dare to address,” and praised the government for making sure the economy had expanded 5% on the year in 2011 despite a “global financial crisis.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal