Ukraine's jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has accused President Viktor Yanukovych of dealing a fatal blow to the country's hopes to sign a landmark agreement with the European Union by opening a criminal investigation against her lawyer.
Serhiy Vlasenko was questioned by prosecutors November 11 on suspicion that he regularly beat his former wife. Vlasenko has dismissed the accusations as absurd and aimed at depriving Tymoshenko of competent defense.
In a statement read on November 12 by her daughter, Yevhenia, Tymoshenko said Yanukovych was trying to undermine Ukraine's EU hopes by going after Vlasenko.
"Over the last few weeks [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych has been kicking at the [EU] Association Agreement in an effort to finish it off," Tymoshenko said in her statement. "The absurd criminal proceeding launched against my lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, has been made deliberately and in cold blood as the last blow to the very hope of Ukrainians to sign the agreement. Yanukovych wants to persuade European leaders that their efforts to defend Ukraine from a dictatorship are in vain."
The opposition has also accused Yanukovych of striking secret deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two met for private talks in Sochi over the weekend.
Tymoshenko, in her statement, said "backroom deals" should not be allowed to destroy Ukraine's EU aspirations and urged EU leaders to go ahead with a planned EU Association Agreement at the end of the month.
"I'm appealing to all leaders of the European Union, to all Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian civil society, the opposition, not to waste time but to act and to strive for the signing of the agreement under any circumstances," she said. "We cannot let any backroom deals and Yanukovych's personal phobias completely destroy the European path for Ukraine."
The European Union wants Yanukovych to resolve the case of Tymoshenko, whose imprisonment is seen by the West as politically motivated, before any agreement is signed.
Ukraine's parliament is expected on November 13 to debate legislation that would allow Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for medical treatment.
Yanukovych's Party of Regions and the opposition, however, have failed to agree on a bill.
The European Parliament's two special envoys, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former European Parliament President Pat Cox, are to deliver a final report on whether Ukraine has made progress in resolving Tymoshenko's case this week.
On November 18, EU foreign ministers will decide whether Ukraine is ready to sign an Association Agreement at the EU's Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28-29.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters