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Ukraine's Prime Minister Fends Off EU Criticism Over Judiciary

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov awaits the start of a European Union-Ukraine cooperation council in Brussels on May 15.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov awaits the start of a European Union-Ukraine cooperation council in Brussels on May 15.
BRUSSELS -- Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has rejected EU criticism of Ukraine's judiciary and the prosecution of its opposition figures.

Speaking after a meeting in Brussels with EU representatives coinciding with the release of a new European Neighborhood Policy report, Azarov said everybody in Ukraine was "equal before the law."

He added that nobody "in our country is persecuted for political reasons."

The European Commission's reports on Ukraine and other countries, released earlier Tuesday, said the shortcomings of the Ukrainian judiciary were blocking the ratification of Ukraine's Association Agreement with the EU.

The report noted that leading opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have been "subjected to selective justice, characterized by untransparent judicial processes."

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office while she was serving as prime minister, and a fresh trial was launched in early April over alleged tax crimes by Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, who lost to President Viktor Yanukovych in a 2010 presidential runoff, says authorities are pursuing a political vendetta against her, and a number of Western governments and Ukrainian and international rights groups agree.

The report notes that "successfully addressing the issue of selective justice would open the way to the signature and ratification of the Association Agreement."

The text also urges Ukraine to pursue reform in all aspects of the judicial process, tackle corruption in business and bring legislation on freedom of assembly and media freedom into line with European standards.

With additional reporting by dpa and ITAR-TASS
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