The release from prison in Ukraine of a former minister of the interior has been seen as a move to improve the country’s relations with the European Union. Yuri Lutsenko was convicted of abuse of power in 2010, and sentenced to four years behind bars. He accepted a pardon from President Viktor Yanukovich. As he walked free, Lutsenko spoke with our correspondent in Ukraine.
Lutsenko said: “I think now we are closer to the EU [prospects] and for me [that] is even more important than my freedom. Because it means freedom for all: for Ukraine and for millions of Ukrainians. I think that European authorities have done so much for this. The first step is very important. I like very much [what] American President [Franklin] Roosevelt said: “Where there is a will, there is a way”. Certainly, it is only a first step – and we understand that we have all problems with law, rules, lack of democracy here in Ukraine. But it is a very important first step.”
Yuri Lutsenko was one of the figures in the forefront of the Orange Revolution people’s uprising in 2004, which brought pro-westerners Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to prominence. She would become prime minister, and Lutsenko has close ties with her. She was handed a seven year sentence two years ago on charges she abused her power. This remains a source of conflict between Kiev and Brussels, and Ukraine’s opposition.
Lutsenko said: “That is the greatest problem for me, and I hope I will visit her in the [coming] days. Certainly, it is a very important point, not only for Ukrainian politics, but for the direction of Ukraine’s EU prospects.”
There are no signs that Tymoshenko’s release might be expected soon. The pardons of Lutsenko and ex-ecology minister Heorhiy Filipchuk have been cautiously welcomed by Brussels, but the EU continues to condemn what it calls ‘selective justice’ in Ukraine.