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Getting Up to Speed on the Latest Yulia Tymoshenko News

5. December 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

Last week, Yulia Tymoshenko celebrated her second birthday behind bars. Tymoshenko has been incarcerated since being convicted of abusing her power as Prime Minister during gas line negotiations with Russia. To celebrate her November 27th birthday, Tymoshenko was permitted an unusual three day long visit from her daughter at the hospital where Tymoshenko is undergoing treatment for a herniated disc. 

 

Tymoshenko continues to have supporters throughout Europe. The mayor of Rome set off a small feud with Ukrainian officials when he hung a banner from the outside of the mayor’s office that called for freeing Tymoshenko. Not to be outdone, the mayor of Kharkiv, where Tymoshenko is incarcerated, hung a poster of jailed Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is serving a four year sentence for embezzlement.

 

Background on the Case

In January of 2009, Ukraine and Russia were at an impasse in energy negotiations. Russian gas company Gazprom insisted that Naftogaz, Ukraine’s gas company, pay all of their outstanding debts before Gazprom would agree to a 2009 supply contract. 2008 was filled with failed negotiations, and tensions ramped up as deadlines for an agreement grew closer. The stakes were high not just for Russia and Ukraine, but other European countries, as well. Sixty percent of the natural gas used in Ukraine comes from Russia. And, gas pipelines that cross through Ukraine supply 20% of the gas used in the rest of Europe. At one point in the negotiations, supplies of gas through Ukraine were cut off for 13 days. This left Southeastern Europe completely without gas supplies for that time and significantly reduced supples in other parts of Europe.

 

Tymoshenko, in her role as Prime Minister, attended talks with Russian officials. At one point, she agreed to sign the new contract, but included a page of provisions that included a requirement that Russia forgive a portion of the prior debt and other measures. Russia rejected the measures. The dispute was resolved in January 18 when Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko negotiated a deal that would cover the next 10 years. Gas service was restored.

 

In April of 2011, charges were brought against Yulia Tymoshenko alleging that she abused her power in agreeing to the contract in the Russian gas negotiation. She was convicted in October, 2011, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

 

The proceedings against Tymoshenko were characterized by President Viktor Yanukovych as an impartial attempt to fight corruption in Ukraine. However, the United States, Russia, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and a number of human rights organizations worldwide have condemned the action against Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

 

Tymoshenko remains politically active from inside prison. She sent out video pleas for fairness in Ukraine’s October elections and has gone on two hunger strikes. She has spent much of her time in prison at a prison hospital receiving treatment for a ruptured disc. With many people around the world calling for her release, it remains to be seen whether she will remain in prison or whether Ukraine will bow to international pressure and allow her release. 

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