Monday, September 12, 2011

Turning point for Tymoshenko today?

Today could turn out to be a pivotal day in Ukrainian politics.

Since the start of the Tymoshenko trial in June the presiding judge has done his utmost to force proceedings at break-neck speed. Day after day court sessions have frequently started at 9 a.m. and continued almost without a break into the early evening. Tymoshenko's team have been constantly denied the right to call dozens of expert witnesses, despite their frequent appeals to do so. Requests for additional time to prepare the case for the defence have been almost invariably denied, as have requests to present detailed evidence such as Naftogas external auditors' reports.

In a word, it has been blinding obvious that the prosecution, judges and their political puppet-masters hads all intended the trial to come to an end and a guilty verdict to be pronounced just as quickly as half-decently possible.

But, to the astonishment of virtually all commentators, when court was re-convened today, the presiding judge announced a two-week adjournment until September 27: "to guarantee the rights of the defence and provide extra time." Significantly, the prosecuting council who had previously protested the granting of any slack to the defence, offered no challenge to the judge's decision.

In other words a complete about-face..

At a meeting of big-shot 'Regionnaires' recently, the whispers were that most of the talking was about finalising the details of the denouement of Tymoshenko's career. Most media observers considered a guilty verdict and a hefty sentence to be imminent, and the trial to be wrapped up by the end of this week. There had been lots of speculation over how heavy the sentence would be, and whether president Yanukovych would amnesty his deadliest political foe in order to attenuate the unprecendented pressure from abroad. Either way Tymoshenko's political career looked all but doomed.

My impression is that Yanukovych has been told in no uncertain terms by Western leaders: If Tymoshenko's political career is terminated, i.e. if a guilty verdict is announced at the end of the trial, we are not messing about...we are closing the door on any further business...Yanukovych has now been forced to make a stark choice.

At the moment Tymoshenko is not guilty of anything and can be released by a snap of the fingers of sourcerer's apprentice of a judge. But a not guilty verdict would be just too much to bear for the current authorities, so the Tymoshenko trial could be suspended for an indefinite period,,..allegations remaining hanging over her. The pressure from abroad, however, would immediately subside.

A guilty verdict in the Tymoshenko trial immediately after the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw, which is to take place September 29-30, reduces the chances of ratification of any EU-Ukraine agreements initialled in Warsaw because the two-week adjournment announced today in the Pechersk court would be regarded as a cynical ploy intended to temporarily deceive EU leaders.

Yanukovych will be at the United Nations General Assembly next week, so the delay helps avoid embarrassment in New York too.

p.s. But there again, who knows what goes on in the heads of the people who got themselves into this mess in the first place? Tymoshenko's political career was in decline, the opposition were demoralised and fractured, European perspectives were looking rosy, and after the Kharkiv agreement, things were set fair with did it all go wrong?

It woz the 'mother's union' that fixed it.


Bernard said...

It is indeed an interesting twist in the development of the farcical Tymoshenko trial. Obviously something happened between thursday and monday that called for new instructions to Kireev. An optimistic interpretation is that the current regime is trying to find an exit strategy that will meet the demands from the west but still save the face of Yanukovych. That would be the rational thing to do. However, given the irrational character of Yanukovych I am more inclined to a pessimistic interpretation. Yanukovych and PoR decided they need more time to dig up new accusations, to step up the negative PR campaign in order to persuade the west that Tymoshenko is a criminal that deserves to be imprisoned. A recent article in EU observer points in this direction:

I think soon we will see more of this. Yanukovych and PoR will be even more persistent that the ongoing trials are not selective justice, but part of the campaign against corruption that they have always claimed. I would not be surprised if new incriminating evidence suddenly appears in the hands of Kireev. This will not
impress the west, and most probably will spoil everything for Ukraine, but unfortunately Yanukovych is not a man capable of understanding this. He will act on his instincts, not on rational analysis. His reaction when negotiations are stalled and agreements not signed or ratified will just be to dismiss some ministers and give them the blame.

LEvko said...

Thank you Bernard for your perceptive comments.

Yanukovych's instincts will tell him to destroy his enemy while he has the opportunity, no question.

Many Ukrainians I have spoken to tend to be suspicious of Tymoshenko, that she did indeed sell out the country's interests in some way when the illogical and harmful 2009 gas deals were signed. If she received a guilty verdict and locked up the internal outcry could be handled by the authorities without too much problem.

On the other hand, I think that a momentum has now been building up in Europe that there has to be a response to the ever-increasing political persecution taking place in Ukraine, which not compatible with European values. Yanukovych has been receiving terrible press in Europe over the last few weeks - truly appalling...

How things pan out no-one can really tell..In my blog I was suggesting that the declaration of a mis-trial, [announcing an indefinite delay due to a procedural technicality or similar], would be one solution for Yanukovych to consider. It would eliminate tensions generated by a guilty verdict but leave Tymoshenko's head in the noose. Other charges against her at a later date would always remain as an option.

My worry is for others like Yuriy Lutsenko, who is really suffering with his health in jail. And the harrassment of other opposition groups is very worrying too.

Several days ago I posted a blog about Alexander Yaroshenko, the head of the Donetsk branch of Arseniy Yatsenyuk's 'Front Zmin' party. He had been unceremoniously seized by police in Kyiv and whisked away to Dontesk.

Now, after more than two days in prison, he has been released without charge.

Apparently he was accused of being absent from the work for a total of 22 days over a period of three years from 2007 to 2010, resulting in alleged overpayments of 4,500 Hryven -about $550] while he was head doctor of a dermatological clinic in Mariupol.

This is about a day's pay for someone in a similar position in a West European country.

Yatsenyuk is a big threat to PoR, and will be difficult to neutralise, so I guess they are going after his backers and local regional organisations...

Bernard said...

Thanks for your elaborating answer, LEvko. I think we can all agree that the 2009 gas deal had serious flaws,but the negotiating position was not very advantagous for Ukraine, to say the least. Russia had stopped gas deliveries, large parts of Europe were literally freezing to death, EU demanded a quick solution, and Yuschenko promised them just that. Tymoshenko managed to get a compromise deal, and to have RUE cut out as mediator. Given the circumstances, that was quite fair. For the flaws of the deal, Tymoshenko should be held politically responsible, and arguably she actually paid the political price when she lost the presidential elections. For this, and other shortcomings she was punished by the voters. And many would say, fairly so. But to make criminal charges out of this, two years afterwards and after the deal has been been approved by all business entities involved and by the governments and parliaments in both Ukraine and Russia, on some flimsy procedural issues, that is just too stupid. In the indictment they actually claim 1/ that she intentionally made a disadvantagous deal 2/ her gain from the disadvantagous deal was to render her a "positive image of effective leadership"! What twisted logic is that? Besides the obvious, that far from qualifying as a criminal motive, we expect politicians to strive for showing effective leadership. And on top of that to claim the charges of Tymoshenko is proof that the government is serious in fighting
corruption, then the level of stupdity reaches a point where it cannot be perceived as anything but an insult to have to argue against it. And not surprisingly, leaders in USA, Canada and Europe, and organisations like Freedom House and Helsinki Committe for Human Rights have not been fooled, they have been frank in saying what every thinking person realises: the charges are of political nature and the way they are pursued, they can only be perceived as political persecution. Wasn't it a German minister who said right out "how stupid do they think we are"? I am sure there is now a real Yanukovych fatigue among European leaders. They have warned him so many times, but he still
does not get it and just keeps repeating the same idiotic arguments. Finally, enough is enough. If Tymoshenko is not soon released and permitted to continue political activities, there will be harsh consequences for Ukraine. Sorry to say, I am pessimistic about further developments. There are no signs of a change in the attitude of the Ukrainian leadership. A new indication is the recent Azarov interview in Le Figaro where he repeats the same old arguments. And the prosecutor general of Ukraine has already declared that the guilt of Tymoshenko has been proved in the trial. For all of us who wish the best for Ukraine, it is painful and tragic to watch.

And yes, you are right to worry about the health of Lutsenko. How he has been treated is absolutely repulsive.