Ukraine President Says He Will Not Intervene in Tymoshenko Case

Posted December 21st, 2011 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych says he does not oppose the release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko but that he cannot interfere in her case.

Mr. Yanukovych said Wednesday Ms. Tymoshenko can only win her freedom in the courts, but that he has no power to intervene in the legal process. He said doing so would be illegal.

Ms. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October for abuse of power in a 2009 gas deal with Russia that her opponents say was too beneficial to Moscow. She has since been charged with numerous other crimes.

She has denied the charges and has appealed her conviction.

The trial has affected Ukraine's ties with the European Union, which Kyiv seeks to join. The EU on Monday said it will not sign a landmark political and trade cooperation agreement with Ukraine until it resolves Ms. Tymoshenko's case.

Ms. Tymoshenko has described her trial as “a political lynching” aimed at allowing President Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival. She had been expected to be the main opposition candidate in an election next year, but is not eligible to run if her conviction is upheld.

Mr. Yanukovych has denied her accusation.

The United States, the European Union and human rights groups have condemned the charges against Ms. Tymoshenko as politically motivated.