Regions Lukewarm On Ex-PM Overseas Trip

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party is lukewarm to approving legislation that would allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to receive medical treatment abroad, a senior party official said Thursday.

Yulia Tymoshenko pictured in prison.

Without the support of the Regions Party, the bill, recently submitted to Parliament by an independent lawmaker, will fail and the government will most likely continue to face political pressure from the European Union.

Oleksandr Yefremov, the leader of the Regions Party in Parliament, said his allies will not back the bill because it has been tailored to fit only “one person.”

He said the party would back the bill only in case of a serious medical emergency. “Today, we do not have such a problem,’ Yefremov told reporters.

The comment dashed hopes of opposition lawmakers that the authorities – responding to the pressure from the EU - may have decided to let Tymoshenko leave Ukraine for medical treatment in Germany.

The hopes were fueled earlier this week after a key committee in Parliament – unusually quickly - had given its green light to the bill, which was immediately put into agenda by Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn

The EU has condemned the sentencing of Tymoshenko to seven years in prison last October as politically motivated.

Tymoshenko, who was found guilty of abusing her powers as prime minister in forcing through a 2009 gas deal with Russia, has denied any wrongdoing and said Yanukovych was pursuing a personal vendetta against her.

The European Union has urged Tymoshenko's release and warned Ukraine its 27 members would otherwise refuse to ratify landmark agreements on political association and free trade with Kiev.

EU leaders also warned about the possible boycott of next month’s Euro 2012 soccer matches in Ukraine.

EU commissioners have said they will not attend games in Ukraine, and several EU leaders are considering similar action in protest of Kiev’s treatment of Tymoshenko.

The bill was prepared by Taras Chornovil, an independent lawmaker, and is supported by opposition groups.

Valeria Lutkovska, a Yanukovych ally who was recently appointed as Ukraine’s human rights envoy, said sending Tymoshenko for treatment overseas would violate the constitution.

“The problem with the constitution emerges,” Lutkovska said.

Later in the day, Lutkovska explained that relocation of a Ukrainian prisoner for treatment overseas would also require an agreement between Ukraine and the government of a country that has agreed to treat the prisoner.

Senior officials from Germany and Ukraine have been over the past month discussing the possibility of relocating Tymoshenko for treatment to a German hospital Charite, people familiar with the issue have said.

Meanwhile, Yefremov, underscoring his skepticism over the bill, said that an entire detention facility in Sevastopol has recently asked to be relocated to Germany for medical treatment.

“You know, I think in Sevastopol, the entire detention facility has asked to be treated in Charite of Germany,” Yefremov said.

“So, if any country gives us an opportunity and treats 300,000 people that are currently kept in detention facilities, I think we would be ready to consider such a bill.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal