The EU is stepping up the pressure on Kiev to free Yulia Tymoshenko ahead of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s planned visit to Brussels this week.
His goal of a free-trade zone with the EU could be scuppered over the former PM’s jailing for abusing her powers in a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
Maja Kocijančič, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said a vote by the country’s parliament on Wednesday to decriminale the charges against would be key as to whether future talks on closer ties between Brussels and Kiev would go ahead.
“We have been in touch with the Ukrainian authorities to let them know of our concerns. And we are now looking very closely what the parliament will do tomorrow in order ro address these concerns. And we hope that they will be addressed in an appropriate way and that by doing that the challenges to the rule of law that we have seen in Ukraine will be overcome.”
That call has been echoed by leading MEPs, who have also condemned the verdict.
Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and the Liberal leader in the European Parliament, told euronews that he was “confident” that Ukrainian lawmakers would adopt the amendment.
“That should solve for once this problem (with) Ms Tymoshenko and at the same time also be a good basis to cancel future problems,” he said on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting in Brussels.
Senior EU officials say that they may cancel Yanukovich’s visit, currently scheduled for October 20, if the Ukrainian parliament fails to adopt the amendment and free Tymoshenko.
Diplomats in Brussels have previously said the case against was politically motivated and the application of ‘selective justice’.