On the eve of International Women’s Day, the daughter of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and the wives of her two imprisoned ministers (Yuri Lutsenko and Valeriy Ivaschenko) held a press conference to demand a meeting with President Viktor Yanukovich in an attempt to get their relatives released from prison.
Evgeniya Tymoshenko said: “We are asking President Yanukovych to meet us and to discuss the situation. We want to talk about political repression and understand what actions he intends to take as the protector of the constitution.”
All three have been jailed by the current government on charges of corruption.
Valeriy Ivashchenko the former Deputy Defence Minister has been detained since August 2010 on charges of illegally selling a ship-repair factory in Crimea.
Yuri Lutsenko, the former interior minister, was sentenced on Feb 27 to 4 years in prison for giving illegal bonuses and perks to his driver at the expense of the state.
In October 2011 Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to 7 years for abusing her authority during the conclusion of gas contracts between Ukraine and Russia in 2009.
Their relatives claim however that the allegations are trumped-up and amount to political repression.
Inna Bohoslovska, the Head of the Parliamentary Temporary Commission that is investigating the signing of gas agreements, said: “What can the president do in this situation? He can grant an act of pardon. But for this, Tymoshenko or her lawyers have to petition him for pardon.”
Tymoshenko has consistently refused to this however, saying that all three are innocent and pointing out that both the US and the EU have protested over her imprisonment and requested her immediate release.
Our correspondent in Kiev, Sergio Cantone said, said: “This press conference seems to be an attempt to split President Yanukovich’s support by appealing to his less hawkish followers who might want to side with the European Union and the international community.”