October 13, 2011

Ex-Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko Guilty Sentenced To 7yrs In Prison!

SF Gate
written by Kathy Lally, Washington Post
Wednesday October 12, 2011

MOSCOW - A Ukrainian judge sentenced a former prime minister to seven years in prison Tuesday, harming the nation's prospects for democracy and confronting the United States and Europe with a serious challenge.

Both have been warning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych against pursuing the prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, calling it politically motivated. If they fail to respond with consequences, the West could be accused of standing by as Ukraine broke the promises of its Orange Revolution.

"Now how is the West going to react?" asked David Kramer, president of Freedom House and a former high-level State Department official. "Unless the statements add up to something and there are real consequences, it will send a signal to all countries in the region that they can get away with this."

Tymoshenko had been charged with abuse of office over a deal she signed as prime minister in 2009 to buy natural gas from Russia. The agreement, pegged to the price of oil, turned out to be costly when oil prices rose. In finding her guilty, Judge Rodion Kireyev fined Tymoshenko $190 million, the amount he said the deal cost the country, and prohibited her from holding office for three years after finishing her prison term.

"The whole process started as revenge against Tymoshenko," said Olga Shumylo-Tapiola, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels who researches EU and Russian policy toward Ukraine. "It definitely shows the judiciary is controlled by the presidential administration and people close to it, and it's difficult to see how democracy will return to Ukraine."

Earlier this year Freedom House, organized in 1941 to promote democracy and human rights, downgraded Ukraine from a free to partly free country. Kramer visited soon after, reporting that Ukraine was at a pivotal point, when it could develop democracy or retreat to authoritarianism. Now, he said Tuesday, the time is overdue for the West to push hard in the right direction.

"It's more than Tymoshenko," he said. "Others are in jail. It's the government trying to cripple opponents and exclude them from the political process. And it's something the EU and the U.S. should not tolerate."

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