Concern about the treatment and sentencing of Yuliya Tymoshenko shows no signs of abating. Following the Prime Minister's comment that the sentencing was "absolutely disgraceful" further questions and debates in the UK Parliament over recent days are sending a very clear message to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government that the issue will not go away.

In response to Parliamentary questions on 25 October, the Minister for Europe, David Lidington said "...if Ukraine wants to make progress with its declared objective of closer integration with the EU, it must realise that that involves a clear and permanent commitment to political reform to establish modern democratic institutions."

On 1 November, Helen Goodman MP, a member of the All-Party Group on Ukraine, initiated an adjournment debate on the Tymoshenko case and its implications for relationships between Ukraine, the EU and the UK. She summarised what she had found from a recent visit to Ukraine, "I did not meet anyone who thought that the trial was legally valid or morally or politically justified. I met people who were critical of Mrs Tymoshenko’s period in office and who had opposed her politically, but those self same people were, none the less, critical of the trial and what had gone on. My impression is that the Ukraine Government embarked on its course of action without fully understanding the implications for their reputation either at home or abroad."

In response, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs emphasised the government's concerns about the current situation in Ukraine, "Ms Tymoshenko’s conviction and the ongoing cases against a number of her former Ministers and officials give rise to serious concerns about where Ukraine is heading. Those concerns are a symptom of broader problems in Ukraine. We also have worries about blurring divisions between the three branches of power—the judiciary, the legislature and the Executive—and about the erosion of media freedoms and a worsening of the business climate as corruption becomes more prevalent."

Mr Browne, however, also made clear the government's desire for closer links with Ukraine and eventual membership of the EU, but not at the price of the EU's fundamental democratic principles, "Ukraine tells us that it wants to join the European Union one day. The UK continues to support that objective. We remain enthusiastic about further enlargement of the EU to the east, if the criteria are right and the circumstances are correct. However, that cannot happen until Ukraine shows that it adheres to the highest democratic standards, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and an independent, transparent and fair judicial process. The conviction of Ms Tymoshenko and the ongoing cases against other former members of the Government call into question Ukraine’s commitment to those values, and could pose a major obstacle to the signature and ratification of the association agreement, and the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU."

The message is being transmitted very clearly, but there are few signs that the President and his government are even receiving, let alone understanding and taking action.


Ukrayinska Dumka


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