In this Centre for European Policy Studies commentary, Michael Emerson surveys recent developments in the case against Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine and their implications for the country’s relations with the EU.
"The [Tymoshenko] case will be followed with great attention, and notably in the European Parliament which will have in due course to ratify the proposed Association Agreement. The Parliament is capable legally of stopping the Agreement from entering into force, if the criticisms of the case mount in volume and credibility. Escalation of the controversy has not so far reached the point of this becoming a prospect: best make sure that it does not.'
Other warnings will appear soon, like this one from a former US ambassador to Ukraine:
"..the president of Ukraine should take heed of these warnings [about the disregarding of principles of democracy], or relations between Ukraine and the West could collapse, as could his expectations of entry into the EU, and Yanukovych could be left as a lone player on the world arena."
p.s. Apologists for Yanukovych who predict 'a soft landing' in the Tymoshenko case' fail to understand how autocrats operate.
A command is given - 'Nail Tymoshenko by the end of August!'
Numbskull prosecutors who worked with Yanukovych during the 'wild east' days of the early '90's, click their heels, "Yes sir!' No-one dare suggest there might not be a case to answer..
They scratch around and eventually manage to cobble together a ramshackle case. Their guys are in power..so they can do anything they want... their man is in complete control...what can go wrong? Critically they fail to notice that no-one can explain, and the man-in-the-street cannot understand, what crimes Tymoshenko is actually being accused of.
The wheels of the big machine start to turn..
Maybe because others know better than to accept, the trial is dropped into the lap of an incompetent novice judge. He knows he will be the fall guy if things go wrong, so he has no choice..bulldoze the trial through, no matter what, and deliver a 'guilty' verdict whatever evidence is offered...even if Tymoshenko were to be charged with stealing presents from Santa Claus's grotto in Lapland.
Senior members of Ukrainian bar association are baffled by the conduct of the hapless rookie judge and his "unprecedented"rulings in this trial.
Meanwhile Tymoshenko has been given a wonderful platform from which to deliver withering scorn and venom onto her foes.
Now, particularly after the fiasco of the last few weeks in the Pechersk courthouse, any diversion from Yanukovych's plan will be a massive victory for Tymoshenko, and a humiliation for the president. But if she is locked up, or even given a suspended sentence, the price to be paid on the international front could be huge too..another humiliation for the president. The former US ambassador is already saying Yanukovych is no longer welcome in Washington. How long before they say the same in Europe?
There can be no soft landing..no tied result.. Yanukovych, like all autocrats who place their egos ahead of national interests, will be discredited...and worst of all, the country will lose out..