By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has appealed to Ukraine’s voters to cast out members of President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in parliamentary elections on October 28.
A two-minute video of Tymoshenko making the appeal was posted on her opposition Batkivshchina party’s website on September 29.
Speaking from a hospital where she is being treated for back pain, Tymoshenko calls on Ukraine’s electorate to oust the “mafia that rules Ukraine and ignores the rights of the people.”
“If you don’t realize now that the criminals are governing Ukraine, that a Mafia is ruling in Ukraine, then nothing will protect you from what is happening now in the country, with Yanukovych at the helm,” she says in the video. “I am sure that either the people will wake up and overthrow this criminal gang during the upcoming elections, or everyone will be treated as they treat those who are now under their control.”
Staff at the hospital are clearly aware a video is being made and make attempts to screen the lens with their hands and hide their faces from being photographed but do not try to stop the camera-operator from continuing to film.
Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years last October after being convicted of abuse of power while serving as prime minister, charges which she and her supporters say were politically motivated.
The European Union condemned the verdict against Tymoshenko and suspended a free trade and political association agreement with Ukraine in response to the sentence.
Tymoshenko used part of her video-appeal to complain about her prison conditions, saying she was enduring a “hell” that Yanukovych planned for her.
After the video was posted, Ukraine’s State Penitentiary Service said it would seek to have Tymoshenko returned to prison from the hospital.
The service said in a statement that: “In view of the convict’s illegitimate behavior and violations of the security regime by her defense lawyer and fellow party members, and
taking account of the significant increase in the convict’s motion activity, the [service] is preparing an official request to the medical commission for a statement on whether the further treatment of Tymoshenko in the hospital is necessary or unnecessary.”
Tymoshenko has been in the hospital for five months.
In New York, where he was attending the UN General Assembly, President Yanukovych spoke on September 29 about a U.S, Senate resolution passed on September 19, which called for visa sanctions against Ukrainian officials for jailing Tymoshenko.
“Naturally, we should take such resolutions seriously,” Yanukovych said. “But we are also aware of the opinions of the Department of State and the White House. They are slightly different.”
Yanukovych also promised upcoming parliamentary elections would be fair.