KYIV -- A close aide to jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says her fate depends on the level of support she can garner from people at home and abroad, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.
Tymoshenko is on trial for abuse of office in connection with a deal she signed with Russia in 2009 that raised the price Ukraine paid for its natural gas. She was taken into custody earlier this month and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges she says are politically motivated.
Oleksandr Turchynov, the first deputy chairman of Tymoshenko's opposition Batkivshchyna party, served as a deputy prime minister in Tymoshenko’s government.
"I cannot predict [how this trial will end] since it does not depend on the defense arguments or the positions of the prosecutor's office," he told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in an interview on August 20. "This will depend on whether Ukrainians today can rise up and defend not Yulia Tymoshenko, but their rights, their country and their future."
Turchynov told RFE/RL many Ukrainians today choose to stay at home because they fear persecution. This government cannot exist without "repressions" and will stay in power as long as people allow it to behave "cynically and boldly," Turchynov said.
He said the Ukrainian authorities deliberately decided to put Tymoshenko on trial in the summer, when many Ukrainians are on vacation or working in their gardens in order to feed their families.
Turchynov predicted that much will also depend on the position of the international community. The United States and the European Union have both expressed concern about Tymoshenko's arrest, saying it contributed to the impression of a politically motivated prosecution.
Turchynov welcomed the creation earlier this month by major Ukrainian opposition parties of the Committee to Resist Dictatorship. This is the first real consolidation since the Orange Revolution in 2004, he said.
The committee plans to hold a joint march in Kyiv on August 24, the 20th anniversary of Ukraine's independence.
President Viktor Yanukovych has said repeatedly said that he cannot interfere in the work of the courts. In a column published in the weekly "Mirror of the Week. Ukraine" on August 20, Yanukovych wrote that Ukraine will no longer have a "caste of untouchables." Neither their position nor money will save criminals from persecution, Yanukovych wrote.