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19.10.2011

BBC: EU delays Ukraine’s leader visit over Tymoshenko trial

   

The European Union has delayed a visit by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to Brussels over the jailing of his main political rival last week.

Brussels said Thursday's visit had been postponed until the conditions were "more conducive to making progress on the bilateral relations".

Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years for acting beyond her powers over a 2009 gas deal.

The EU says her trial was politically motivated - a claim denied by Kiev.

'No favours'

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the postponement of Mr Yanukovych's visit was meant to stress the need for Kiev "to make progress in ensuring the rule of law and independence of judiciary".

The EU has accused the Ukrainian authorities of implementing the system of selective justice, saying it is targeting the opposition ahead of next year's crucial parliamentary election.

Brussels has also been pressing Kiev to amend the original charge against Mrs Tymoshenko to make it an administrative offence rather than a criminal one.

This could have allowed Mrs Tymoshenko - who was narrowly beaten by Mr Yanukovych in the last presidential elections - to stand in the 2012 parliamentary polls.

On Monday, Mr Yanukovych said he it would be unacceptable for him to overrule the court and free Mrs Tymoshenko.

"What signal would this send to the society? It would mean that one has to be a member of the opposition to be able to commit crimes, " he said.

And speaking about his Brussels visit, Mr Yanukovych stressed: "I'm not going to ask any favours. We [Ukraine and the EU] are partners. If there is a need to meet - I'm ready."

Mr Yanukovych had been due to meet top EU leader to discuss advancing Ukraine's integration into the EU.

In particular, Kiev is keen to sign a long-awaited association agreement with the 27-member bloc by the end of the year.

Some analysts say the postponement of Mr Yanukovych's visit to Brussels could strengthen Russia's hand in trying to lure Ukraine back into its sphere of influence.

On Tuesday, Mr Yanukovych met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at an economic summit in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

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