NEW YORK, USA -- The United States and the European Union jointly urged Ukraine to stop selective prosecutions and said the two are working closely to monitor the state of democracy ahead of parliamentary elections in the country.

Hillary Clinton (R) and Catherine Ashton.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the issue with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in New York earlier this week, stressing that the October 28 elections will be an important test.

"Ukraine is hugely important to European security and stability. We have been very clear how much we regret what we see as selective prosecutions, including imprisonment of former prime minister [Yulia] Tymoshenko," a US official said. 

"Our relations with Ukraine can really only move forward when we see an end to those selective prosecutions," the official said.

The meeting between Clinton and Ashton came after the U.S. Senate had voted unanimously to approve a resolution demanding the release of Tymoshenko and calling on the Department of State to institute visa restrictions against those responsible for her imprisonment.

The resolution, which showed strong bilateral support for the measures, sent shockwaves through the Ukrainian government amid fears that some officials may be potentially facing looming travel restrictions.

Tymoshenko was jailed to seven years in prison in October 2011 for abusing power while negotiating a 10-year natural gas agreement with Russia in January 2009.

She denied any wrongdoing and said the trial was politically motivated to eliminate opposition leaders by the authorities in Ukraine.

The concerns expressed by Clinton and Ashton at the meeting over the worsening level of democracy in Ukraine, opens the possibility that the EU may eventually consider similar travel restrictions against the same officials.

This puts major pressure on President Viktor Yanukovych and members of his family and the government ahead of the October 28 elections to make sure the vote is recognized as fair and free by the Western powers.

“I think the elections will be conducted in a normal way,” Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in comments released by the government on Thursday.

“This is a very important stage for us because the country needs further reforms.” 

“Conducting the reforms without the trust of the people is very hard, that’s why we have to obtain a mandate of trust at the elections,” Azarov said.

“We are doing everything to provide free and democratic elections,” Azarov said. 

Source: Ukrainian Journal