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Ukraine, Not So Subtly, Plays The Tymoshenko Card


Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy

Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy

If "all problems" between Ukraine and the EU were solved, the parliament in Kyiv could pass extraordinary legislation to set former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko free from jail.

That's what Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy was quoted as saying by EurActiv, the specialized European Union affairs portal. (Euractiv had earlier quoted Khoroshkovskiy as saying that Ukraine would set Tymoshenko free if the EU signs an association agreement with Kyiv, but this was subsequently retracted.)

Khoroshkovskiy said this after European journalists pressed him to explain what he meant when he said that domestic legislation could be changed if it becomes a major obstacle to Ukraine’s ambition of closer ties with the EU.

Ukraine and the EU have initialed an Association and Free Trade Agreement. Signing is contingent on Ukraine cleaning up its act, ending selective justice, and conducting free-and-fair parliamentary elections on October 28.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

The EU is upset over the treatment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently serving seven years in prison on charges of abuse of authority. She is on a hunger strike to protest her treatment and was treated roughly by prison guards as she was taken away to a clinic last week.

Tymoshenko, it would seem, has become a bargaining chip for the Ukrainian administration.

Ukrainian politicians believe that deals like this are normal. After all, they conduct these kinds of transactions among themselves all the time. Why should dealing with Europe be any different?

Cynicism? Stupidity? Arrogance? Inelegance? Most likely all of the above, and then some.

People like Khoroshkovskiy forget that we live in the Internet age. When you put your foot in your mouth, word gets out very quickly.

Ukraine’s most popular political website, Ukrainska Pravda,
quickly jumped all over the deputy prime minister's statement and called it for what it appeared to be: blackmail.

The beleagured Khoroshkovskiy responded by saying that his words had been taken out of context and that there was likely an error in translation. (This is presumably why Euractiv made the aforementioned amendment to its article.)

But Khoroshkovskiy knows English well. He could have picked up on that “error” and set the record straight right away, had he wanted to.

Khoroshkovskiy’s clowning with the press didn’t end there. When asked if Ukraine would lean closer to Russia if its EU aspirations do not come to fruition, Khoroshkovskiy nodded. Asked the same question again, he nodded again. When he was asked a third time, he said, "No." Everyone laughed.

Khoroshkovskiy is a multimillionaire and a close ally of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych. He has come a long way from his first jobs as a mechanic and a driver for Kyiv’s zoo. He is part of the Firtash group, controlled by billionaire Dmytro Firtash, stakeholder of a company called RosUkrEnergo, once the one-and-only trader of Russian gas to Ukraine.

Tymoshenko’s 2009 gas deal with Russia, for which she is now serving jail time, removed RosUkrEnergo from the Russian-Ukrainian gas equation.

-- Irena Chalupa

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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