Tymoshenko Looks Set to Remain in Jail

Tymoshenko Looks Set to Remain in Jail

Published: November 16, 2011 (Issue # 1683)

AP / TYMOSHENKO PRESS SERVICE

Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko waves to supporters from a prison window in Kiev, Ukraine on Friday, Nov. 4.

KIEV, Ukraine — Efforts to free former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison through the domestic legal system are almost certainly doomed and she is likely to remain in prison for many months, her lawyer said Monday.

Serhiy Vlasenko charged that President Viktor Yanukovych is intent on keeping the top opposition leader in prison to bar her from elections.

“Tymoshenko is a very personal issue for Yanukovych. It’s very emotional: she is his personal, political enemy,” Vlasenko told a small group of foreign reporters in Tymoshenko’s office in central Kiev. “And according to the logic of Mr. Yanukovych, the enemy must be in jail.”

Tymoshenko, 50, was convicted last month of abusing her powers while negotiating a natural gas import contract in Russia in 2009, and sentenced to seven years in jail. The United States and the European Union have condemned the ruling as politically motivated, but Yanukovych has defied Western pressure to release her.

Vlasenko said parliament, dominated by Yanukovych loyalists, will likely kill a bill this week that would turn her crime into a less serious economic misdemeanor and allow her release. He also predicted that an appeals court, which will hear her case next month, would uphold the conviction. The appeals process usually takes up to two months, he said.

Tymoshenko is pinning her hopes on eventually getting the verdict overturned by the European Court of Human Rights, but Vlasenko said it may take some 10 months or even longer for the Strasbourg court to make a ruling on the case.

Furthermore, it remains unclear whether a decision by the European court would be legally binding in Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s spokeswoman, Marina Soroka, said if the Strasbourg court were to rule that Tymoshenko’s right to a fair trial was violated, she would have to be released from jail.

But Andriy Kozlov, an independent legal expert, said that while Ukraine’s Supreme Court would be required to review the case, it won’t necessarily be obliged to overrule the decision by the local courts.

Meanwhile, Tymoshenko is suffering from severe back pain, according to Vlasenko, but the authorities are refusing to let her be examined and treated at a medical facility outside her detention center that would have the necessary medical equipment and expertise.

The pain is so severe, Vlasenko said, that Tymoshenko was unfit to be questioned, but was nevertheless interrogated while lying in bed in her jail cell last week. The Soviet-era small, stuffy and odorous cell has three beds, a small table, a refrigerator, a TV-set and dimmed lights are left on through the night, said Vlasenko, who was present during the interrogation. The toilet, closed off by short walls that do not cover a person entirely, is located in the same cell.

The Health Ministry said Monday that state-employed doctors who have examined Tymoshenko concluded that she was fit to be interrogated, but would not disclose Tymoshenko’s medical condition, saying that would be unethical.

Tymoshenko was convicted of overstepping her authority while negotiating a gas contract with Russia. The court found that she did not have the authority to approve the deal, which was found to be harmful to the Ukrainian economy.

Tymoshenko insists that Yanukovych, her longtime foe, ordered the legal assault to prevent her from participating in elections and keep his power unchallenged. Yanukovych denies the accusations, saying he was not involved in the investigation and that a court made the ruling in her case independently.

Main news of November 15

WORLD

* The Syrian opposition has dismissed any talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the leader of the rebel Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalioun, said

* The Ukrainian parliament threw out a bill that would have exonerated jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the leader of the dissident Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalioun, in a landmark move towards a peaceful settlement in Syria

* Prosecutors in Tajikistan have appealed against a jail term handed down to a Russian pilot last week

* Presidential elections in Moldova have been canceled after the parties failed to agree on possible candidates, raising the possibility of early parliamentary polls in the former Soviet republic

* Lawyers for two men accused of carrying out a bomb attack that claimed 15 lives in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, will address the court on Tuesday, a day after prosecutors demanded they face the firing squad

* U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Sunday’s presidential elections in Georgia’s former republic of South Ossetia were illegitimate

RUSSIA

* Russia has deported at least 300 Tajik migrant workers following the jailing of a Russian pilot in the Central Asian republic, a migrant movement leader said

* Former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov testified in a police probe into the embezzlement of funds from the Bank of Moscow, the capital’s former investment vehicle

* Russia’s Central Electoral Commission believes a PACE fact-finding mission in Russia ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections contravenes national legislation, CEC head Vladimir Churov said

BUSINESS

* Ukraine is planning to save about $6 billion annually after reviewing gas contracts with Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said

* Gas producing and exporting countries should continue using a formula that links gas prices to prices on oil markets to stimulate a wider use of the fuel, the Qatari ruler said

Russia, Kazakhstan may cancel oil export duties within CIS free trade zone

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has said Russia and Kazakhstan have agreed to cancel oil export duties for participants in a free trade zone being created within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

“For the first time, we fixed in the agreement the readiness of Russia, as well as Kazakhstan, another oil producing country, to cancel [oil] export duties within a limited period,” Azarov said in an interview with Ukraine’s Inter TV channel on Saturday.

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said on Thursday Russia could cancel its oil export duties no earlier than 2020.

On Tuesday, the majority of the CIS countries signed an agreement to set up a free trade regime after two decades of debate. The CIS consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Ukraine has not ratified the CIS Charter but participates in its activities. Turkmenisan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan are yet to decide whether to join the agreement.

Azarov said on Thursday the agreement may come into force in January 2012. It is yet to be ratified by member states.

In the interview with Inter, the Ukrainian premier said Russia’s high oil export duties were detrimental to Ukraine’s oil refineries.

“Oil export duties of $450 per ton ($64 per barrel) make our oil refineries unprofitable,” he said.

He also said he expected a new agreement on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine being negotiated by the sides to correspond to Ukraine’s “long-term interests.”

“We are certainly ready to compromise – and we will – because we don’t have other options,” he said.

In August, following a gas pricing row between Moscow and Kiev, Ukrainian state energy monopoly Naftogaz threatened to cut its gas imports from Russia if Moscow does not agree to lower the price.

Earlier this month, Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abusing her power in the signing of a 2009 gas deal with Russia that Ukraine seeks to review. She has already appealed the verdict.

“The first thing that Russia needs is guarantees of uninterrupted gas supplies to Europe,” Azarov said. “We are trying to persuade our partners that we are ready to guarantee the reliability and stability of gas supplies by concluding the agreement.”

Russia annually pumps about 100 billion cubic meters of gas to European countries via Ukraine, which makes up 80 percent of its total gas supplies to Europe.

Russian gas exports to Europe via Ukraine have been disrupted several times in recent years over pricing rows with Kiev. In early 2009, Europe has been left without Russian gas for nearly two weeks after Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy monopoly Naftogaz failed to agree on gas prices.

Russia ‘agrees’ to allow Turkmen gas transit to Ukraine

Moscow is ready to allow Kiev to use Russian pipelines to transit Turkmen gas to Ukraine, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Saturday.

“Why can’t we receive cheap gas from Turkmenistan? Because we did not have access to the pipe in the Russian territory,” Azarov said in an interview with Ukraine’s Inter TV channel.

“We agreed for the first time… that within six months after an agreement [on the creation of a free trade zone within the Commonwealth of Independent States] comes into force, we will sign an agreement on the conditions of the pipeline transit [of Turkmen gas to Ukraine],” he said.

In August, following a row between Moscow and Kiev over the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas, Ukrainian state energy monopoly Naftogaz threatened to cut its gas imports from Russia if Moscow does not agree to lower the price. Naftogaz is currently negotiating the issue with Russia’s energy giant Gazprom.

Earlier this month, Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abusing her power in the signing of a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She has already appealed the verdict.

Turkmenistan, holding the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, is looking to diversify exports from its traditional destination of Russia. Last year, the country announced plans to supply up to 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe. Turkmenistan may become one of the key gas suppliers to the EU-supported Nabucco project.

On Tuesday, the majority of the CIS countries signed an agreement to set up a free trade regime after two decades of debate. Turkmenisan, along with Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, have not signed the agreement. Russian Prime Minsiter Vladimir Putin said the countires would consider joining the free trade zone by the end of the year.

The treaty is yet to be ratified by member states. Azarov said on Thursday the agreement may come into force in January 2012.

 

Kiev told to dump ‘phobias,’ join customs union

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged Ukraine to get rid of its political phobias over accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

“Sit down, calculate, weigh it up, get rid of various political phobias from the past, and look into the future,” Putin said at a news conference after a meeting of EurAsEC heads of government.

Russia has no intention of foisting anything on Ukraine, he said, and if Ukraine eventually decides to join, “we are ready to open direct dialogue on Ukraine’s accession.”

Kiev has declined to join the Customs Union, but said it could cooperate with the union under a ‘3+1′ scheme, which would not give it full membership – an option that has been rejected by Moscow.

Ukraine’s focus is on a free trade zone with the EU, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday.

Kiev hoped to conclude free trade talks with the EU by the end of 2011. The free trade provision is expected to become a part of an association agreement with the EU. However, the EU may block the agreement after Ukraine’s ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this month on charges of abuse of office.

 

Fly away: EU cancels Yanukovich invitation

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich will not visit Brussels on Thursday to discuss the EU Association Agreement. The visit was canceled after a court sentenced former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years.

“We took a decision to postpone this visit to a more suitable moment in our bilateral relations,” Spokeswoman of the European Commission Pia Hansen said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry tried to downplay the blow by pointing out that the visit will still happen, albeit at a later date.

“I’d like to draw you attention that at the moment we talk about postponement of the visit,” spokesman for the ministry Aleksandr Dikusarov said.

The possible change of plan for Yanukovich’s visit was on the table since the sentencing of Tymoshenko on October 11. EU sees the trial as politically-motivated and demanded the ex-PM be released if Kiev wishes to improve its relations with Europe.

Yanukovich denied the allegations of rigging the trial and refused to put leverage on Ukraine’s judiciary. He also said that releasing Tymoshenko now would not be appropriate, since his political opponent faces more criminal charges.

The president stressed that integration with the EU has no connection to the prosecution of Tymoshenko.

“We are partners. If there is a need for a meeting, I am ready to meet. If there is none, I will fly on,” he told the media in Kiev, referring to his planned tour to Latin America.

Shortly after the sentence was issued, Yanukovich hinted that Ukraine’s criminal code may be amended in a way that would ensure that an appeal against Tymoshenko’s sentence would be ruled in her favor. If he hoped to limit the diplomatic damage, this did not save Ukraine’s hopes for an Association Agreement with the EU, which was expected to be signed in December.

Before the news broke, Ukraine’s prime minister said in an interview that the EU’s negative attitude would send a clear message to Kiev that it should seek closer ties with Russia.

“If we receive an absolutely clear ‘no’ signal from the European Union, the possibility of our changing direction towards the Customs Union [between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan] is quite big,” Sergey Tyagibko told the Den newspaper.

“People who would like Ukraine to join this Union may receive a serious argument in favor of their position,” he said.

Moscow offered Kiev to seek membership in the customs union, but Ukraine has so far been reluctant to do so.

Yulia Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of the office of prime minister. The charges had been brought over the signing of a gas contract with Russia. The court said the contract terms were unfavorable to Ukraine, and that Tymoshenko forced its signing to score political points ahead of an election.

She is also being investigated over conspiracy to embezzle state funds, misappropriation of budget money and illegal purchase of property. Tymoshenko says all the charges are false and accuses Yanukovich of persecuting the opposition.

Main news of October 13

WORLD

*The relatives of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in 2006 in London, have called for a substantial probe into his death, BBC reported

*Up to 30,000 Ukrainian nationalists and communists will march in Kiev on Friday in two opposing rallies for and against the recognition of WWII-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army members as fighters for Ukrainian independence, Kiev police said

*London plans to work with the EU, the United States and Saudi Arabia on weighing its response to an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in Washington, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said

*Protesters in southern India have prevented several thousand engineers and workers from continuing construction work on a nuclear plant that is being built with Russia’s help, local police told RIA Novosti

*The Ukrainian security service (SBU) launched a new criminal case against Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday, accusing her of attempting to embezzle $405 million during the 1990s, an SBU official said

*Rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas have agreed to hold a meeting to discuss how a reconciliation deal between them is being implemented, a senior Fatah member said

*Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves canceled a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko for technical reasons, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official said

*Thirty-eight people died when a bus went off the road and crashed into the Sun Khosi river in eastern Nepal on Thursday, NepalNews.com reported

RUSSIA

*Russia and the European Union should find a compromise on payments for aircraft pollution, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said

*A veteran Russian rock singer has made a hit in the blogosphere with a scathing song mocking Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

*Russia has said it is concerned over new EU sanctions against Iran and Belarus

 

 

Yulia Tymoshenko sentenced to seven years in prison


Yulia Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years’ jail. Link to this video

The former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of abusing her office in a case her supporters claim is politically motivated.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said Tymoshenko had exceeded her powers when she signed a 2009 deal with Moscow that left Ukraine paying a high price for Russian gas.

At the end of an hours-long reading of the verdict, he ordered her to repay the state gas company, Naftogaz, 1.5 billion hryvnia (£120m) in damages.

The trial, which began in May, has been criticised by the Ukrainian opposition and EU leaders.

Tymoshenko, a leader of Ukraine’s Orange revolution six years ago, had reverted to being the country’s chief opposition politician and rival to the president, Viktor Yanukovych, since leaving office last year. She has accused Yanukovych of orchestrating her arrest.

The former prime minister addressed reporters during a break in the reading of the verdict to accuse Yanukovych of building an “authoritarian regime”. The 50-year-old compared her trial to Stalin’s purges, when the Soviet dictator sought to eliminate his perceived enemies.

Before the judge began reading the verdict, Tymoshenko had told the court: “You know very well that the sentence is not being pronounced by Judge Kireyev but by President Yanukovych. Whatever the sentence pronounced, my struggle will continue.”

Tymoshenko’s supporters had gathered outside the courtroom in Kiev, where city officials deployed around 1,000 police officers.

Some Ukrainian analysts have speculated that the leadership in Kiev could attempt to save face by overturning any sentence. That would leave Tymoshenko out of prison but, under Ukrainian law, bar her from participating in the country’s political life.

The EU was quick to condemn the verdict as politically motivated and urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair appeals process for Tymoshenko.

A failure to do so would have “profound implications” for Ukraine-EU relations and could jeopardise the conclusion of a landmark association agreement, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement.

Nearly a dozen of Tymoshenko’s associates have been arrested since Yanukovych came to power after a closely-contested vote last year. He has denied carrying out a witch-hunt.

Yulia Tymoshenko jailed after ‘political trial’ that risks making Ukraine a pariah


Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years’ prison, a ruling which sparked clashes in Kiev involving her supporters, opponents and police. Link to this video

Ukraine shut the book on its flirtation with democracy and European integration on Tuesday when it sentenced former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison in a trial widely seen as a political witch-hunt.

The EU said it was “deeply disappointed” in the conviction and vowed to review links with the country. It had issued repeated warnings to President Viktor Yanukovych that a guilty verdict would derail negotiations that had been on the verge of forging unprecedented ties between Brussels and Kiev.

Tymoshenko, flanked by her daughter and husband, appeared defiant as Judge Rodion Kireyev read the nearly four-hour-long verdict on charges that she exceeded her authority when she signed a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

In addition to the seven-year term – the maximum requested by state prosecutors – the judge ordered her to repay 1.5bn hryvna (£120m) in damages incurred by state gas firm Naftogaz, and seized her property. The 50-year-old was also banned from participating in political life for three years after the sentence runs out.

Tymoshenko, visibly angry, responded by telling the court: “Today it has become clear to everyone that the country is ruled by a dictatorship.

“I beg you to unite to overturn this authoritarian regime.”

She compared her trial to Stalin’s purges, when the Soviet dictator sought to eliminate his perceived enemies, telling the court: “You know very well that the sentence is not being pronounced by Judge Kireyev, but by President Yanukovych.”

Tymoshenko has been Yanukovych’s chief political rival for nearly a decade, co-leading the Orange Revolution that kept him from coming to power in 2004 as Ukraine bucked Russian influence in favour of forging closer ties with the west.

But as the Orange coalition devolved into bitter political infighting, Yanukovych was elected to office last year, with Tymoshenko becoming chief opposition leader.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said her conviction was “deeply concerning” and called into question Ukraine’s relationship with the EU.

He said the trial could pose a “major obstacle” to the signature and ratification of a so-called “deep and comprehensive” free-trade agreement, which both Brussels and Kiev had hoped to sign by the end of the year.

Hague said: “Ukraine says it wants to join the EU one day. The UK supports that objective. But that cannot happen until Ukraine can show that it adheres to the highest democratic standards, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and an independent, transparent and fair judicial process.”

Lady Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement: “The verdict comes after a trial which did not respect the international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process.”

Ukraine’s politics, and its relationship with business, remains murky 20 years after the fall of the USSR, while its institutions are woefully unreformed and subject to intense political influence. Tymoshenko herself grew hugely rich in the 1990s and was nicknamed “the gas princess” after her main source of wealth.

The current trial – over a deal that put an end to a ruinous gas war with Russia that left much of eastern Europe freezing in January 2009 – was the culmination of a targeted campaign against the opposition leader that saw nearly a dozen of her associates also arrested.

“In a way this case reminds me of [jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail] Khodorkovsky,” said Sergei Markov, a member of Russia’s State Duma. “In both cases there are political reasons for the trial.”

Ukraine risks becoming an international pariah after Moscow also reacted harshly to the conviction, with the foreign ministry noting that “many states and the world public perceive this entire judicial process as initiated for purely political reasons”.

The case, the ministry said, contained “an obvious anti-Russian subtext”. Russia has resisted Yanukovych’s attempts to renegotiate the gas deal in favour of Ukraine.

Some Ukrainian analysts have speculated that the leadership in Kiev could attempt to save face by overturning the sentence. That would free Tymoshenko from prison but bar her from participating in political life, including next year’s parliamentary elections and a 2015 presidential vote. EU officials have said that would not be enough.

Last week, the Ukrainian parliament threw out proposed amendments to the criminal code that would have decriminalised the articles under which Tymoshenko was convicted. Yanukovych hinted late on Tuesday that plan was still a possibility.

“[The verdict] has made the European Union anxious and we understand why this is so,” Yanukovych said, news agencies reported from Kiev.

“Today the court took its decision in the framework of the current criminal code. This is not the final decision.

“Beyond doubt this is a regrettable case which is impeding the European integration of Ukraine today.”

Amnesty International issued a statement calling for Tymoshenko’s immediate release.

Moscow reads ‘anti-Russian subtext’ into Tymoshenko case

Moscow sees an anti-Russian subtext in the case of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who was sentenced to seven years in prison for signing “gas contracts” with Russia, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“As a matter of fact, Yulia Tymoshenko was prosecuted for the current, still valid, legally binding agreements between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukraine,” the ministry said.

It also warned that the verdict must not affect the implementation of bilateral gas agreements.

 

Tymoshenko Handed 7-Year Sentence

Tymoshenko Handed 7-Year Sentence

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

EFREM LUKATSKY / AP

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko being led out of the courtroom by police after having been found guilty.

KIEV, Ukraine — Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of office Tuesday and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a trial widely condemned in the West as politically motivated.

Judge Rodion Kireyev also barred Tymoshenko, now the country’s top opposition leader, from occupying government posts for three years after the completion of her prison term and fined her 1.5 billion hryvna ($190 million) in damages to the state.

Tymoshenko remained calm, but didn’t wait for Kireyev to finish reading the lengthy ruling, standing up from her seat and addressing reporters in the courtroom as he spoke. She compared her verdict, which she claimed was written by her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to the horrific purges by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

“The year 1937 has returned to Ukraine with this verdict and all the repression of citizens,” she said, adding that she would contest the ruling. “As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary.”

“Nobody, not Yanukovych, not Kireyev, can humiliate my honest name. I have worked and will continue to work for Ukraine’s sake,” Tymoshenko told reporters earlier.

As Kireyev was leaving the courtroom, Tymoshenko’s husband Oleksandr yelled out that his time would also come for a similar verdict. One Tymoshenko supporter shouted “Shame!”

Tymoshenko was found guilty of exceeding her authority during the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. The court ruled that she was not authorized to order the contract signed and that the price she agreed to was too high, causing losses to the state budget.

The European Union was quick to condemn the verdict as politically motivated and urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair appeals process for Tymoshenko. A failure to do so would have “profound implications” for Ukraine-EU relations and could jeopardize the conclusion of a landmark association agreement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

Tymoshenko, 50, was the driving force behind the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned Yanukovych’s fraud-tainted election victory. Yanukovych staged a comeback, narrowly defeating Tymoshenko in a 2010 presidential vote amid public disenchantment with economic hardships and constant bickering among those who had ousted Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko has already spent over two months in jail after Kireyev ordered her arrested for contempt of court. Tymoshenko had also spent several weeks in prison in 2001 on charges of document forgery and tax evasion, but the charges were later dropped.

Tymoshenko maintains her innocence and claims that her trial was orchestrated by Yanukovych in order to bar her from upcoming elections.

She says as prime minister she did not need any special permission to order the signing of the gas deal and maintains her actions helped end a bitter pricing dispute between Moscow and Kiev, which had led to energy supply shortages across Europe.

Putin ‘puzzled’ by Tymoshenko verdict

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he does not understand why former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty and handed a seven-year prison sentence for forcing through a gas deal with Russia.

He said Tymoshenko had not signed anything herself and that the agreements were concluded by the national companies in full compliance with Russian and Ukrainian laws.

Putin also warned that it was “dangerous” and “counterproductive” to question existing gas agreements between Russia and Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day “Yulia Tymoshenko was prosecuted for the current, still valid, legally binding agreements between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukraine,” warning that the verdict must not affect the implementation of bilateral gas agreements.

“Tymoshenko is not our friend, and for me personally she is neither a friend nor a relative,” Putin, who is visiting China, told journalists in Beijing. “Moreover, she is rather a political competitor, because she has always been… a Western-oriented politician,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine would gain more by combining efforts on integration projects, he added.

“This would be more beneficial,” Putin said. “I am not speaking about politics,” he said, adding that Russian-Ukrainian integration would yield “economic” benefits.

 

Main news of October 11

WORLD

* Russia and the West were united in condemnation of Ukraine over the guilty verdict and seven year sentence handed to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

RUSSIA

* Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said:

– He expected to complete talks on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization by year-end

– Economic cooperation of Russia and China is not limited to fuel supplies as the two states are involved in numerous projects in traditional cooperation areas and high-tech industries

– Moscow and Beijing are close to signing a long-awaited 30-year gas deal

– He is convinced that the “tandem’s” idea to redistribute power will strengthen the country, and that he expects to get electoral support

BUSINESS

* Russia and Ukraine will honor the current bilateral gas contracts until new agreements are signed, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said

* Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed that Russia should build the country’s first, $9 billion nuclear power station

Yulia Tymoshenko trial is an own goal for Ukraine

The venue was Kiev’s glittering Hyatt Regency hotel, overlooking the Old City. The moment was just before Ukraine‘s 2010 presidential election. Voters had grown weary of the constant bickering between the country’s two pro-western leaders – firebrand prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and semi-romantic nationalist president Viktor Yushchenko.

Instead, the man of the moment was Viktor Yanukovych, a Soviet-era apparatchik. Back in 2004, Yanukovych had been caught, embarrassingly, trying to fix the last presidential poll.

Over an agreeable dinner, aides to Yanukovych – without recognising any previous wrongdoing – told me that their candidate was now a reformed character. Yanukovych was a democrat. More than that he was also a passionate European, who believed that Ukraine’s geopolitical destiny lay with the European Union, rather than with Russia, the country’s authoritarian neighbour (although good ties with Moscow were important, too). The new Yanukovych was even learning English. This message was repeated in Brussels, London and Washington.

Eighteen months later things look rather different. The decision by a Kiev court today to jail Tymoshenko for seven years for abuse of office over a controversial 2009 gas deal with Russia is an unambiguous signal. It says that Yanukovych does not really care what the EU thinks about him. It also confirms what Yanukovych’s critics have been saying for some time – that under his leadership the country is sliding towards Russian-style “managed democracy” and autocratic rule.

Since taking power, Yanukovych has rapidly reversed the fragile democratic gains of the Orange Revolution. He has put a squeeze on the country’s independent media, with TV now in the hands of a bunch of pro-regime oligarchs. Nosy opposition journalists – such as the investigative reporter Vasyl Klymentyev – have disappeared. In parliament, Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions has, using dubious means, achieved a majority. And politically motivated prosecutions have been brought against Tymoshenko and other senior members of her bloc.

Initially, some welcomed Yanukovych’s old-school centralising tendencies. They favourably contrast Ukraine’s current political “stability” with the chaotic, and even dysfunctional, Orange revolution years of 2004-2010. Speaking after her prison sentence, Tymoshenko delved into history and said the judge’s verdict had plunged Ukraine back to 1937 and the dark era of Stalin’s showtrials.

“As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary,” she declared defiantly, as she was carted back to jail.

The comparison is ridiculous: in 1937 defendants were taken out after their trials and immediately shot. This won’t happen to Tymoshenko.

There are rumours that following her conviction Yanukovych, having proved his point, will look for some kind of deal. One version is that the charges against her will be “decriminalised”; another that she will be released on payment of a large fine. The European Union has reacted to the sentence with anger and dismay. Amnesty International dubbed it “politically motivated”. The Russian press baron Alexander Lebedev mischievously tweeted: “Free Nelson Tymoshenko!”

But what is clear is that the case was designed to nobble Tymoshenko and to cripple the pro-western, anti-Yanukovych forces she represents.

She is now unable to participate in Ukraine’s next two elections: parliamentary ones in 2012, and the next presidential election in 2015. That, presumably, was the idea. Thousands of her supporters took to the streets of Kiev today, protesting noisily against Yanukovych’s heavy-handed tactics, reminiscent of Ukraine’s backroom politics a decade ago.

The trial bears comparison with that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch who fell out with Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkovsky was jailed for a second time in 2010 after a similarly ludicrous judicial process. Khodorkovsky’s trial was seen as a bellwether for Russia’s political direction: forwards towards partial liberalisation and the rule of law, or backwards along the same lugubrious KGB track as before. Tymoshenko’s conviction, alas, shows that Yanukovych isn’t the newly minted democrat of 2010, but the same man whose election team in 2004 hacked into Ukraine’s central election commission’s computer.

Things may look grim for Tymoshenko, but there are several factors in her favour. As Andrew Wilson, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, argues Ukraine isn’t Russia. There are signal differences: Ukraine’s economy isn’t booming, its political system is fractured, and it still has a credible (admittedly now jailed) opposition leader – Tymoshenko. Relations with the Kremlin are cool.

Plus, Ukraine is more susceptible than Russia to international pressure.

But the clinching factor is something completely different: football.

Next year, Ukraine, together with Poland, will host the European football championships, Uefa Euro 2012, with the final taking place in Kiev. It is a moment when the eyes of the world, or much of it, will be looking at Ukraine.

And it won’t look too good if Nelson Tymoshenko is still in jail.

Yulia Tymoshenko found guilty of abuse of office

Ukraine‘s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been found guilty of abusing her office in a case her supporters say is politically motivated.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said Tymoshenko had exceeded her powers when she signed a 2009 deal with Moscow that left Ukraine paying a high price for Russian gas.

The trial, launched in May, has been harshly criticised by the Ukrainian opposition and EU leaders. Tymoshenko, a leader of Ukraine’s western-leaning Orange Revolution six years ago, has reverted to being the country’s chief opposition politician and rival to President Viktor Yanukovych since leaving the office of prime minister last year. She has accused Yanukovych of orchestrating her arrest.

An emotional Tymoshenko, wearing her trademark plait and a cream-coloured dress, addressed reporters during a break in the reading of the verdict to accuse Yanukovych of building an “authoritarian regime”. The 50-year-old compared her trial to Stalin’s purges, when the Soviet dictator sought to eliminate his perceived enemies.

Before the judge began reading the verdict, Tymoshenko had told the court: “You know very well that the sentence is not being pronounced by Judge Kireyev, but by President Yanukovich.”

“Whatever the sentence pronounced, my struggle will continue,” she said, flanked by her husband and daughter. Tymoshenko’s supporters were gathered outside the courtroom in Kiev, where city officials have deployed around 1,000 police officers.

A sentence is expected later on Tuesday. Prosecutors have asked the judge to send her to prison for seven years.

Some Ukrainian analysts speculate the leadership in Kiev could attempt to save face by overturning any sentence. That would leave Tymoshenko out of prison but, under Ukrainian law, bar her from participating in political life in the country.

The EU has warned Ukraine that increasingly close ties between Kiev and the bloc would be “jeopardised” by a guilty verdict. Nearly a dozen of Tymoshenko’s associates have been arrested since Yanukovych came to power last year after a closely contested vote. He has denied carrying out a witch-hunt.

Trial Of Ex-Ukraine Prime Minister Tymoshenko Due To Resume

The trial of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is scheduled to resume today in Kyiv after a two-week break.

Tymoshenko, a leading figure in the opposition against President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration, has been on trial since June for alleged abuse of office over a gas deal signed with Russia in 2009.

She could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Prosecuting authorities say the deal, which Tymoshenko brokered, resulted in Ukraine paying an exorbitant price for Russian gas supplies.

Tymoshenko, who denies the charge, says is she is being unfairly prosecuted by her political rivals.

The European Union and the United States have warned Ukrainian authorities against political prosecutions and have suggested that the case against Tymoshenko be dropped.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has been attempting to persuade Russia to review the controversial gas contract.

compiled from agency reports

Ukraine says ‘fair’ price for Russian gas is $230 per 1,000 cu m

Ukraine believes that the fair price for the purchases of Russian natural gas should be standing at $230 per 1,000 cubic meters, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko told country’s TV channel Inter on Saturday.

The minister said Ukraine pays $355 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas during the third quarter of this year and the price is expected to rise to some $400 in the fourth quarter.

Ukraine, he said, is currently buying the Russian gas at a higher price comparing to other European countries and the figure of $230 was calculated in line with the price that Germany pays Russia, minus transit fees across the Ukrainian territory.

The 10-year gas export contract with Russia, signed in 2009, ties the price for gas to oil prices, which have been rising recently boosting Ukraine’s bill. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is now on trial for signing the deal, and Kiev is at pains to revise it.

Boyko also said that the current gas disagreements between Russia and Ukraine would not disrupt Russian gas deliveries during the coming winter like it happened in January of 2009.

Ukraine transits around 80% of Russia’s Europe-bound gas. Russia, which supplies around one fifth of Europe’s gas, briefly shut down supplies via Ukraine’s pipeline system at the start of 2009 during a dispute with Kiev over unpaid debt.

Kiev to slash Russian gas purchases by 5 bcm in 2012

Ukraine has filed a bid to buy 27 billion cubic meters of gas in 2012 from Russia’s gas giant Gazprom after a 33 bcm bid this year, President Viktor Yanukovych said on Friday.

“We have filed a bid for 27 bcm for next year,” Yanukovych said.

Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko said last month that Ukraine, which is in a bitter row with Moscow over prices for gas, bought 40 bcm of gas this year. Gazprom said Kiev must pay for 33 bcm of gas a year regardless of actual purchases.

The 10-year gas export contract with Russia, signed in 2009, ties the price for gas to oil prices, which have been rising recently boosting Ukraine’s bill. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is now on trial for signing the deal, and Kiev is at pains to revise it.

Ukraine drafts 2012 budget at current Russian gas deal prices

The Ukrainian government has set the average price for Russian gas in its 2012 draft budget in line with a 2009 contract Kiev is now contesting, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Klyuyev told reporters on Wednesday.

“It is calculated to the formula set in the contract by (former prime minister Yulia) Tymoshenko … It will range from $414 to $416 – this is the average price,” Klyuyev said .

The 10-year gas export contract with Russia, signed in 2009, ties the price for gas to oil prices, which have been rising recently boosting Ukraine’s bill. Tymoshenko is now on trial for signing the deal, and Kiev is at pains to revise it.

“We are obliged to fulfill the 2009 contract before we agree new ones. This is why we are calculating the draft budget and all social and economic development programs as if the contract were to be fulfilled and the gas price were high,” Klyuyev said.

He reiterated Ukraine still hoped to revise the existing terms.

Kiev does not rule out going to court to renegotiate the contract, and said it would spin off production, transportation and sales units off national energy company Naftogaz, which holds the Russian gas contract, to break the agreement.