Recently, the whole of Europe seems to be scandalized by the situation of former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko. Ukraine which was predicted a bright European future is now compared with Lucashenko’s dictatorship in Belarus. According to FT, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described Ukraine as a “dictatorship”, comparing it with Belarus, a clear message of European leaders’ frustration in relation with the treatment undergone by Yulia Tymoshenko, who remains in detention.
“Today, Germany and the European Union are living in peace and freedom” Merkel said, during a speech in the Lower House of Parliament, reports the Financial Times. She added that “Unfortunately, not all of Europe is, because in Ukraine and Belarus people are still suffering under dictatorship and repression”.
Merkel’s statements are the first occurrence of a Western European politician calling Ukraine a dictatorship, although many analysts do not consider this country as authoritarian as Belarus or Russia. Of course, for reasons more or less diplomatic, Merkel did not directly name Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who is charged with consolidating his power by eliminating opponents through such processes supervised by the political power.
In fact, the German Chancellor has no way to forget that her old friend, recently returned to the helm of Russia – Vladimir Putin – was also the target of similar accusations in the case of the former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovski and his partner Platon Lebedev.
In the same register, Chancellor Merkel has – and almost incredibly – the solidarity of European leaders, which – with few exceptions – have decided in block to boycott the Yalta Summit (and the meeting was canceled for this reason).
However, I cannot repress a common sense question: Where was Europe and its leaders in September 2011, when by the voice of European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule (quoted by Kommersant-Ukraina daily), the European Union did not recognize “political prisoner status for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko”, who was under arrest during the process where she was indicted for abuse of power.
Moreover, participating in the 8th edition of Yalta European Strategy Forum, Fule said that the same reason is valid in the case of all other investigated ministers, former members of the Tymoshenko cabinet. In the view of High European official, “there is a clear distinction between cases in Ukraine and the issue of political prisoners in Belarus, whose status was recognized. In Belarus they were clearly arrested for critiquing President Aleksandr Lukashenko dictatorship. In Ukraine, there are questions just about the quality of legislation and the degree of judicial independence, noted the Commissioner, marking the distinction between the events in Ukraine and in Belarus.
A month later, on October 11, 2011, Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison by a court in Kiev. She was found guilty of misconduct in the case of a contract signed in 2009 by Naftogaz with Russia for natural gas supplies to Ukraine at an exorbitant price. Before reading the verdict, Tymoshenko denounced a political revenge by the current head of state: “You know very well that the sentence is not handed down by Judge Kireev, but President Yanukovych (…) Whatever the verdict, my fight will continue. This sentence, written by Yanukovych will not change anything in my life or in struggle” she added. Of course, reactions from European chancelleries were present, but were located in the famous and hypocritical record of the position papers required of every politician.
At the end of last year, the United States asked Ukraine to free Tymoshenko, whose appeal to the sentence imposed in October was just rejected. The US Department of State said that it was disappointed by the Court of Appeal in Kiev, adding that Tymoshenko and other politicians who are in prison would be entitled to participate fully in Ukrainian politics. Unfortunately, the position taken by the United States failed to raise awareness. Maybe because Tymoshenko is an emblematic figure of the Orange Revolution of 2004, that (after a promising start!) failed miserably under President Viktor Yushchenko’s term, causing disappointment to a significant proportion of population of Ukraine.
From this array of hypocrite sympathy, not lacks, of course, the Russian authorities, who in April 2012, by the voice of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Lukashevich, expressed concern about the health of Yulia Tymoshenko, and offering to provide necessary treatment in Russia and underlining the need to show the humanity toward that which for years was considered Ukraine’s Iron Lady.
Of course, the file of Tymoshenko will go on the table of international judges. The procedure is bureaucratic and sometimes takes years. Here is an aspect in which politicians will most likely feel compassion for the former Ukrainian PM. I think that it is well to remember that a favorable decision by an international court was also given to Mikhail Khodorkovski, a document that apparently was good for nothing.
And last, but not least, who and what arguments can someone use to decide when they must interfere with the justice (be it corrupt, politicized and willing to make many compromises) of another state? World politics should not be based on functional hypocrisy and double standards. Until light is shed on these issues, I expect European solidarity to work and in the Khodorkovski case through a boycott at a Summit Russia – EU. Is it possible, is not just a rhetorical question of course.
It seems that it is not possible. According to latest news, EU leaders will meet, also in block, with president Vladimir Putin at the Russia – EU Summit / St. Petersburg on 3-4 June 2012.