Poland warns Ukraine vote, Tymoshenko jeopardize EU ties

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2012 10:21 AM
Poland warns Ukraine vote, Tymoshenko jeopardize EU ties

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) - Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski warned Ukraine on Thursday that its European integration depended on the transparency of October's parliamentary election and the fate of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has called European integration his top foreign policy priority, but Kiev's ties with the European Union have soured since he came to power in February 2010.

"Poland has consistently and constantly expressed the position that carrying out fair elections in Ukraine, regardless of their outcome, should open way for further steps with the goal of signing and ratifying the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine," Komorowski told reporters after meeting Yanukovich on a visit to Ukraine.

"The stakes are high both for Ukraine and Europe, a lot can be gained or everything can be lost."

The EU shelved landmark deals on free trade and political association with Ukraine after a local court sentenced Tymoshenko, 51, a former prime minister and Yanukovich's main political opponent, to seven years in prison last October.

Brussels called her conviction on abuse-of-office charges an example of selective justice and urged her release. It has also criticized the slow pace of reforms in Ukraine and expressed concerns about the fairness of the election given Tymoshenko's inability to run.

Yanukovich said last week he expected work on the association agreement to resume after the October 28 vote, only to be rebuked by European officials who reminded him about Tymoshenko, a position Komorowski reiterated.

"The case of Yulia Tymoshenko is Ukraine's internal affair but at the same time it is a serious and significant obstacle on the path of Ukraine getting closer to the EU," he said.

TIGHT-LIPPED

Yanukovich declined to say whether he would pardon Tymoshenko, who is now fighting tax evasion and embezzlement charges in a fresh trial.

A leader of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" protests which derailed Yanukovich's first bid for presidency, Tymoshenko has accused him of extracting revenge and trying to weaken the opposition ahead of the October election.

The United States this month criticized what it called biased media coverage and uneven representation of political parties in electoral commissions, saying the vote could be judged as "failed".

Political analysts expect the election will see Yanukovich's allies continue to control parliament.

Tymoshenko, who has been receiving treatment for back trouble in a state-run hospital since May, is challenging her initial abuse-of-office conviction in the European Court of Human Rights and has denied any wrongdoing.

Famous for her sharp tongue and trademark peasant hair braid, Tymoshenko served twice as prime minister but lost the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close run-off.

Soon afterwards, she was slapped with the abuse of office charge related to a 2009 gas deal with Russia which she had negotiated as prime minister. According to Yanukovich's government, the deal had saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for vital energy supplies.

(Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Sophie Hares)