Senate Committee Calls For Ex-PM Release

WASHINGTON, DC -- In a stunning rebuke to Ukraine’s government, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has called for the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and proposed the State Department institute a visa ban against those responsible for the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and her political allies.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)

The resolution, passed unanimously late Wednesday night, now heads to the full Senate, where its adoption seems likely.

The resolution condemns President Viktor Yanukovych for his role in Tymoshenko's "politically motivated imprisonment" and calls for her immediate release.

The resolution notes that "international calls for Ms. Tymoshenko's release, access to outside visitors, and adequate medical treatment have been ignored even as her health continues to deteriorate."

Senate Res. 466 calls for the unconditional release of political prisoners, including Tymoshenko.

It also urges for the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary elections, due to take place on October 28, to be fair and transparent.

It comes days before Yanukovych is supposed to arrive in the U.S. to participate in the United Nations General Assembly.

A team of key government and National Bank of Ukraine officials is currently in Washington for talks with the U.S. government and the International Monetary Fund, seeking to unblock a $15.2 billion loan.

The resolution is the first major warning coming out of the U.S. of the suggested targeted sanctions, such as the visa ban, against Ukrainian officials that may particularly painful to those involved.

The European Union earlier threatened to postpone signing a free trade and political association agreement with Ukraine until Tymoshenko is freed.

No visa ban measures have so far been discussed in Brussels.

The resolution was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Whip.

“My resolution condemns the selective and politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of Tymoshenko and other Orange Revolution leaders,” Inhofe said in a statement.

"This resolution sends a strong and unmistakable message to the Ukrainian government: selective prosecution of political opponents has no place in the community of democracies," said Durbin.

"With parliamentary elections just around the corner, we also urge the Ukrainian government to conduct open and fair elections that are open to domestic and international observers."

In October 2011, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of power based on a 2009 gas contract she signed with Russia.

She is serving her sentence in a Kharkiv women's prison.

She has been receiving treatment at a Kharkiv hospital since May.

She was diagnosed with a spinal disc herniation.

In late March, a second case bringing further charges against Tymoshenko was filed with Kharkiv's Kievsky District Court.

The case deals with her activity at United Energy Systems.

She is accused of misappropriation of funds.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reacted quickly to the resolution by saying it mostly reflects the position of “its two authors known for their sympathies to the Ukrainian opposition.”

The ministry said Ukraine will continue active cooperation with the U.S. on a broad number of issues, from nuclear non-proliferation to development of economic and trade relations to fighting the international terrorism.

Oleh Voloshyn, the spokesman at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said discussing the visa ban is “premature, to put it mildly.”

“The key test is of course the elections. If the elections are conducted not on a proper level, this will be a different story,” Voloshyn said in an interview with TVi.

“But if the elections are held normally, I think this resolution will be forgotten as a nightmare.”

“Let’s be honest: Ukraine today is not so much important country for the U.S. so that we deserve separate hearings. Let’s see how it goes, but it is hard to say that this is a serious position of the Senate.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal