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EU Officials In Kyiv Ask For Tymoshenko Pardon

EU envoys Aleksander Kwasniewski (left) and Pat Cox (right) during a visit to Kyiv in September
Two EU envoys have asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to pardon jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko's lawyer, said at a news conference on October 4 in Kyiv that former European Parliament President Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski had asked Yanukovych for the pardon during a meeting with the Ukrainian president earlier in the day.

Cox and Kwasniewski visited Tymoshenko in prison in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on October 3.

Vlasenko said Tymoshenko has also accepted an offer extended to her for medical treatment in Germany for a back problem.

He read a statement from Tymoshenko: "To settle the question of political prisoners in Ukraine, a special mission of the European Parliament working in Ukraine and headed by Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski are constantly negotiating with Viktor Yanukovych for my release. I am infinitely thankful to them for that, as well as to all the world leaders who delegated them, issued them their mandate, and who support their work. Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski conveyed to me an offer to go to Germany for medical treatment. I publicly accept this offer."

At the same time, Tymoshenko stated she would not seek political asylum while abroad.

Tymoshenko, 52, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for crimes related to a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She denies the charges and says they are politically motivated.

The charges came after she lost a close presidential election to Yanukovych in 2010.

The governments of several Western countries and numerous international human rights organizations have called on Kyiv to release Tymoshenko.

The EU has long sought a pardon for Tymoshenko or at least her release for medical treatment abroad ahead of Ukraine's expected signing of an EU Association Agreement in Vilnius in November.

Former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told RFE/RL that the EU had been linking the signing of the agreement to Tymoshenko's release.

"It looks like under the pressure of, first of all, the European public, Yanukovych in recent days has realized that he cannot fool Europeans," he said.

"Talk that it is impossible to change the status of Tymoshenko do not work. Today the process of Tymoshenko's release has begun. I don't know when it will end, but I wish very much that it will be soon."

Also on October 4, Yanukovych dismissed First Deputy Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin.

Kuzmin was the chief prosecutor in the Tymoshenko case and had accused her of complicity in the 1996 killing of lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban. He had also threatened Tymoshenko with further charges.

Kuzmin was appointed to the National Security and Defense Council after his dismissal.

With additional reporting by Reuters