Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ukraine: President Says He is Open to a Pardon of Tymoshenko When EU-Style Criminal Code is Approved

SOURCE Ukraine Foreign Affairs

Former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could be pardoned under a new Criminal Procedure Code now being introduced as part of the country's pro-European Union reform agenda.

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych said that if her sentence remains in force after the code becomes law, he will consider any pardon request from her because he wants the "right solution" according to "European standards."

Tymoshenko was last year jailed for seven years for exceeding her authority as Prime Minister in concluding a 2009 gas contract with Russia. That deal has since resulted in her country paying significantly higher prices for Russian gas than its neighbours.

The Yanukovych government maintains that it has always kept its distance from the court proceedings against Tymoshenko. The President says as things now stand, he cannot legally grant her a pardon. Only the completion of court procedures and the introduction of new laws will give him the latitude to free Tymoshenko once her appeal has been heard.

"Once we get a solution of the Court of Appeal...if we adopt the Criminal Procedure Code, I think we will have such a possibility," he said on Ukrainian TV.

"I am for this matter to be considered under the new Criminal Procedure Code."

The Code is now working its way through the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) and is one of a number of reforms the Yanukovych has championed to bring his nation in line with EU countries and to express Ukraine's "European identity."

Ukraine has also initiated wide-ranging economic reforms and the President last week honoured his pledge to revitalise his cabinet by bringing in three new ministers, including an opposition-linked businessman Petro Poroshenko, as minister for economic development and trade.

Yanukovych said that later this year the EU and other nations will be able to witness fair, free and transparent elections in Ukraine.

"I stand for a fair fight by the rules. There is the law. I am for implementation of this law and fight by the rules according to it," he said.

"I always stress that this is the first big election to be held by the current power, and of course we must show that we are a civilized country (and) a European country."

Yanukovych has long maintained Ukraine's future lies in the European Union and getting a signed Association Agreement with Brussels is the next important step on the long road to EU membership.

Yanukovych has also had to cope with pressure from Russia, which is asking its neighbours to sign a Customs Agreement that would create a Russia-centric free trade alternative to the European Union. Ukraine also recently suffered, along with the EU, unilateral cuts of gas supplies by Gazprom during the cold spell.