Azarov Lauds EU Tymoshenko Case Observers

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Sunday praised the European Union for sending two high-profile representatives to Ukraine to monitor legal proceedings against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Former European Parliament President Pat Cox.

The arrival of former European Parliament President Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski offers a chance for the EU to look into the Tymoshenko case in detail, he said.

“I see this as the first attempt by the EU and by European Parliament to look into the issue indeed,” Azarov said in an interview with local television while visiting Kharkiv.

Tymoshenko, who was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in jail for abuse of office, also faces a number of other charges and investigations, including alleged connection to the murder of a lawmaker in 1996.

The West has condemned the prosecution of Tymoshenko, the country's top opposition leader, as politically motivated and has called for her release.

Senior EU officials are boycotting European Championship soccer matches hosted by Ukraine to protest the case.

Tymoshenko says President Viktor Yanukovych, her longtime foe, threw her in jail to bar her from the parliamentary election in October.

Cox and Kwasniewski arrived in Ukraine last week to monitor the legal proceedings against Tymoshenko, who is being treated for a spinal condition in a hospital.

Both representatives are expected to attend an appeal hearing in her case in late June.

Azarov said the authorities will share all papers and evidence collected in the Tymoshenko case, adding that Cox and Kwasniewski will be the first EU officials to inspect the papers that shed light on a controversial natural gas agreement with Russia in January 2009.

“No one has seen those papers, minutes of a government meeting, that show that even her own government did not support the agreement,” Azarov said.

“This agreement shockingly underscores the country’s lack of rights.”

Ukrainian officials said earlier the 10-year gas agreement negotiated by Tymoshenko forces Ukraine to overpay about $6 billion in annual payments for imports of Russian gas.

“Imagine a [European] politician sign such a killing agreement, according to which a country is overpaying for gas more money that it annually spends on healthcare,” Azarov said.

“Would you consider this as a kids’ play, a little mistake?”

“Why are we fighting for two years and still cannot change the agreement?” Azarov said.

“It’s because it was written in such a legal language that we have no rights.”

“Why are we paying for gas twice as much as Germany? Azarov said.

Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryshchenko on Thursday said that Germany and other European governments put pressure on Ukraine in January 2009 forcing Tymoshenko to sign the controversial gas agreement with Russia.

“This was done at the request of Germany and other European governments that had insisted on the gas crisis be solved quickly when [Russian] gas supplies to the EU had been suspended,” Hryshchenko said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“The main thing is that this problem was solved at the expense of Ukrainians.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal