Tymoshenko: 'I will never abandon Ukraine'

Tymoshenko: 'I will never abandon Ukraine'
By Euronews
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In order to go to Brussels for the European People’s Party conference, the leader of the Ukrainian opposition ‘Fatherland’ party, Yulia Tymoshenko, had to ask permission from the country’s Attorney General, because she is under investigation for alleged financial irregularities during her premiership. In an interview with euronews she said that in the year since the presidential elections, much has changed in Ukraine.

Alexei Doval, euronews: “Since you stepped down from the post of prime minister, serious allegations have been made against you. Are they fair? Do you deny them?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Absolutely. It’s part of wide ranging political repression which has begun in Ukraine. All opposition politicians are under investigation, or in prison. That’s why I want to thank the current president, the government and the security forces because for the last year they have checked all my work as prime minister, and they admit that even though they want to find something wrong, they have found nothing. And for me, that’s a strong vindication.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “But one enquiry is on-going. And if, as you say, the authorities and the judiciary behind the investigation are not independent, perhaps it would be best to stay here? To claim political asylum, after all, you could go to prison.”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “I will never abandon Ukraine during this difficult period. And I will never leave my voters, more than 11 million Ukrainians. I will go back to defend Ukraine, the rule of law, democracy, human rights and freedoms. I don’t want to let them lose hope – I will stay with them, even if the authorities go to the extremes of putting me in prison, or even if I remain at large, whatever happens I will stay in Ukraine.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “How serious is the situation? You say things have got worse.”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Yes, many people today, in Ukraine and abroad, feel that Ukraine took the direction away from democracy, freedom and our European project. It’s a very difficult situation. Today, people feel that lack of freedom and they are afraid. Corruption is eating away at the foundations of the state. I know that today the situation is serious but we will overcome this phase. Today, the oligarchs own the media and have huge amounts of money, and they are all very powerful. Today in Ukraine, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers has disappeared. It is all now fused into one big system exploited by one man and his followers. The foundations of democracy in Ukraine have been destroyed.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “One of the big democratic achievements in Ukraine was freedom of expression. Is that now in danger?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Rather than asking the opposition about that, you should ask the international NGO Reporters Without Borders. Last year Ukraine went right down on their scale of freedom of expression. Today in Ukraine a group of more than 1,000 journalists are fighting back against censorship. Civil society, journalists, opposition activists, we are all in the struggle. We fight the authoritarian regime, which sadly, has ruled Ukraine for a year now.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “Today, the murder of the journalist Georgiy Gongadze is back in the spotlight in Ukraine. They are even questioning ex-president Koutchma. So for the authorities, freedom of expression is also important, and they are trying to protect it – which is the opposite of what you’re saying.”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Sadly, that’s just an illusion. Seeing as today the economy and the social system are completely ruined, and people have no freedoms, the government decided to use this to distract them from other problems. I don’t think the action taken against the ex-president will lead to a fair outcome. I’m convinced that this is just a diversionary tactic.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “You said that a year ago, Ukraine turned its back on the European project. Can we take this to mean that Ukraine is moving towards Russia? What’s the problem with that?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “No, it’s going in the direction of lack of freedom, non-democracy, injustice and corruption. That’s the way it’s going. And that’s nothing to do with Russia.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “Under the current government, are the links between Ukraine and Russia likely to be strengthened?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “I would like these links to be those between two partners. I don’t want to see them become the image of an older brother and his junior, a relationship between a superior and a subordinate… a relationship between a large powerful country and the neighbouring territory. I want to see good neighbourly links, partnership, a relationship on equal terms offering mutual advantages and satisfaction.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “A year ago, a little less than half of all Ukrainian voters voted for you. Can you still represent their point of view?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Absolutely. Today, that’s my job. And now, in fact, people are scandalised by the lack of justice. They are worried, indignant. But I think that Ukrainians, in their spirit, in their genes, are free people. History has made us like that. We are not only free, but we are always willing to fight for our independence, our liberty, and I think that Ukrainians will overcome this situation. But even more importantly, Ukraine will be supported by her allies, her partners, in the EU, and in the western world. For us, that’s important.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “There are a wave of revolutions taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. Is the situation in Ukraine potentially explosive, revolutionary?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “Yes. When people despair, and there is no other way except revolution, in fact, a country risks exploding. The new president is leading Ukraine towards that. People are angry. They want a political voice, they don’t want to be left to one side.”

Alexei Doval, euronews: “Does Europe have some responsibility for the fact that the Ukrainian revolution in 2004 ended in disappointment?”

Yulia Tymoshenko: “I don’t think Europe is at all responsible. I think that this politician to whom the country has given power, via the revolution, has turned out to be weak. He hasn’t resisted the temptation to return to the old model of ‘oligarchy then politics.’ That has upset the Ukrainian revolution. But in fact, Ukrainians have not lost their faith. Yes, in a way they are disappointed. But at the same time if you compare the first five years of the revolution with the situation today, they know that now they have much more freedom in all ways, and much more justice.”

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