There has been much speculation lately that former PM Yulia Tymoshenko will be found guilty and sentenced next week; but by means of an artificially created mechanism of decriminalisation of portions of the law, she will be freed soon after.
This has lead to a commonly held view that: "The authorities will realize two strategic goals – preserve their political image, demonstrate strength and consistency by pronouncing Tymoshenko guilty, at the same time [the verdict] will be softened by the decriminalization after the trial to satisfy the Europeans,"
Commentators who propose such a view are mistaken. The political image of Ukraine's current rulers has already been serious damaged in the West, whatever the outcome of the Tymoshenko trial, because of the barrage of allegations voiced by European leaders and press over the last few months that the trial is politically motivated. The damage is difficult to quantify, but the country has certainly experienced terrible 'bad press' - no question about this. Prosecuting Tymoshenko has delivered little or no political gain domestically either.
The grubby face-saving decriminalisation maneouvres apparently 'forced' onto the Ukrainian authorities will not satisfy Europeans either because everyone is aware the motives for them are completely cynical. They merely leave a bad taste in the mouth.
The reason for the probably permanent damage to Ukraine's current authorities' reputation, and also to the country's medium term euro-integrational prospects, is that the case against Tymoshenko has been fundamentally weak. What should have been a showcase trial has turned into a catalogue of procedural errors, the judge has been biassed, and the defence has clearly not had a fair opportunity to challenge and test the evidence against them. This will all be supported and confirmed in the weeks to come by international monitoring groups. Hence the conclusion that the trial was concocted to eliminate a major political opponent.
However, having taken a pounding in recent weeks from European leaders at the YES conference and at the Eastern Parnership summit in Warsaw , Yanukovych may feel he has already taken the hardest knocks they can deliver. He suffers from the delusion that the EU needs Ukraine more than Ukraine needs the EU so after Tymoshenko is found guilty and sentenced there will surely be a big temptation to say: 'Not so fast..not so fast...let's see what happens..' and keep Tymoshenko under lock and key. A final option to pardon her will always remain available of course, if the political heat gets too great..
If, and/or when Tymoshenko is released, her priority will be to ensure the West's attention is focussed on former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko's preposterous trial. Then there will be hearings in New York, and in the European court of Human rights..and appeal hearings in Ukraine..
Yanukovych should check out the press frenzy surrounding the return of Amanda Knox to the US, after her recent release from an Italian jail ...and draw parallels... imagine the welcome Tymoshenko will receive the next time she visits Brussels or Strasbourg..or even Moscow.
Now if she was a plain Jane...
p.s. Lots of aerial photos of Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya palace and grounds here
Remember, the man's overriding ambition is to be one of Europe's richest men..
Also photos of Yatsenyuk's and Tymoshenko's houses nearby..she apparently, ahem, 'rents' hers..