It’s been over a year since Yulia Tymoshenko’s—the former prime minister of Ukraine, imprisonment. She has been sitting on a list of charges that in the past twelve months seem to have been discreetly accumulating. The initial accusations that brought her to court concerned formal issues with instructions she had given prior to the signing of a major Ukrainian-Russian gas contract. Based on information collected by the quarterly journal New Eastern Europe, the contract set the price for “technical gas”—a necessary addition to preserve transit—at $232 per cubic meter, as opposed to $179.50 the previous year. Lady Yu is being held accountable for the raise and for indebting the Ukraine government even more than it already is. During trial, the accused sought to prove that the technical gas contract was adopted from the middleman agency, RosUkrEnergo. However, judge Rodion—the 31-year old appointed to the case after two years of experience in court, dismissed her. He avidly stood by the prosecutor’s indictment for abuse of power; the trial emphasized the implications behind Ms. Tymoshenko’s actions for Ukraine, as opposed to hard details of the charges.
Feisty Lady Yu lost her temper and clamored that the trial was an attack on democracy; her unspoken word an assertion of bias on the judge’s part. She was held in contempt of the court and arrested in the courtroom on August 5th, 2011.
In the past month, Tymoshenko’s appeal for her conviction for abuse of office was rejected. Her daughter Evgenia had begun an international campaign to free her mother from her seven-year sentence. Photos have surfaced of Yulia resting on a hospital bed with bruises she claims are from beatings she suffered as a result of her imprisonment. Similarly eerie political pickles hint at a pattern: Viktor Yushchenko, another leading figure of the opposition and former president of Ukraine suffered dioxin poisoning in late 2004. There is no clear evidence suggesting that he was poisoned, but suspicions are firm that Yanukovych’s men are behind it. A particularly sketchy follow-up to the poisoning, a press release a few days after Yushchenko’s illness denied allegations of poisoning by the hospital at which he was treated. Several days later, the same hospital claimed that the results discussed in the press release were falsified. Perhaps an echo of a Soviet-style campaign of disinformation; perhaps not. Moreover, alongside Lady Yu, a number of other opposition leaders of the Orange Revolution sit behind bars. This sounds familiar—oh yeah, “Man is a problem. No man, no problem,” seems to be the Stalin-reincarnate rhetoric. You can take the Soviet out of the state, but not really.
The Orange Revolution in the early 2000s marked new political rivalries, while the divisive lines among Ukraine interests became more apparent. The Regions Party, now in power with President Yanukovych at its head, represents a more Russophile Ukraine that emphasizes stronger cultural and political ties between the two nations. On the other side of the spectrum stand Yulia, Yushchenko, and others of the opposition. They are highly supportive of European integration for Ukraine; and strive for closer relations with the democratic West.
The international community is firm in their defense of Tymoshenko. Back in June, the office of Angela Merkel and the British Foreign Office boycotted the Euro Cup. The U.S. and other EU officials have condemned president Yanukovych’s persistence in keeping her behind bars a politically motivated act, especially considering the parliamentary elections to be held this time next month. On September 19th, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution imposing sanctions including a visa ban on those responsible for the prosecution of the former-PM. All to no avail because Yanukovych, though evidently deeply grieved by everyone’s concerns, made clear to the international community they had no business shoving their noses in Ukrainian domestic affairs.
Unfortunately for Tymoshenko and her hopes for the future of Ukraine, there is an inherent problem in the Yanukovych regime and his actions. Thus far, the current system is evidence of a state that still bears the heritage of Soviet totalitarianism from a past not so long-gone. A common attribute of the many former Soviet states is a political stagnancy that seems to want to be on the right track, but that will fundamentally fall back on a condition that seems to reject democracy.
– photo by Balazs Gardi