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The EU has expressed disappointment at the Tymoshenko verdict. A statement from the foreign policy office said justice was being applied selectively in Ukraine under political motivation. But European Commission President José Manuel Barroso made it clear that it will not lead to a breakdown in relations.

“We think it is very important to have a reinforced relationship with Ukraine. At the same time we expect Ukraine to uphold the values of rule of law, of human rights, of fundamental rights and of course independent judiciary,” Barroso said.

Ukraine aspires to EU membership and has been talking to the Union about political association and a free trade agreement as a first step to that eventual end. The Tymoshenko case makes the talks more difficult, but they will go on.

Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, said: “The verdict of the Ukrainian court will certainly be one of the obstacles in our direct contacts and certainly will have a negative impact on our negotiations, but I am sure that we should continue our negotiations on the Association agreement. We should not punish the Ukrainian people.”

The EU has urged Ukraine to ensure fairness in any appeal of the case, not just of Tymoshenko, but also of other former members of government, and clearly feels let down according to Amanda Paul of the European Policy Centre.

“The EU finds itself in quite a difficult situation now. Clearly it wants to remain engaged with Ukraine because Ukraine is an important country and these agreements can have a significant impact on changing things in Ukraine. But at the same time it is obvious from the signals that they cannot allow what happened today to go by unnoticed or without affecting the relationship,” Paul said.

EU sources have indicated that a visit by President Viktor Yanukovych to Brussels later this month could be cancelled, but the Ukrainian mission to the EU said there had been no change in the plans for the trip.

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