New EU Ambassador: Ukraine has political prisoners


In an interview for the Ukrainian Service of Polskie Radio, the new EU Ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski was clear that Ukraine has political prisoners.  He believes that the authorities may be understanding that dragging out the situation over Tymoshenko is making the country a prisoner, like the former Prime Minister.  The following is from the interview.

“At the moment, of course, all attention is focused on the elections. We all know, and nobody conceals that in conversations with Ukrainian representatives, that there is a very low level of trust in Ukrainian politicians and Ukrainian itself as a country which as its strategy has chosen a path moving it closer to the EU. It’s up to Ukrainians whether they build that trust. The first most noticeable test will be the preparation and holding of elections in such a way that nobody questions the functioning of democracy in Ukraine. We have the example of the Georgian elections which are very widely discussed. We thus see that there is no rule which says that the party in power must win the elections. The Ukrainian elections should make it possible to create a mandate of trust in the new parliament and those who will by choice represent Ukrainians. The second test is the application of the law with regard to people who carried out political functions. This concerns the trials of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yury Lutsenko.  This needs to be understood in terms of the system since we are not only talking about well-known people but about a legal and political system with mechanisms making it possible to resolve such a type of case. At present there is no such mechanism in Ukraine.  There are only criminal sanctions and that in turn arouses suspicion of selective application. There are no guarantees that in the future the political – legal system will be able to deal with such problems.

Is this the last chance for Ukraine? We keep hearing that we need to wait for the elections yet Ukrainian experts say that there will not be any fundamental change after the elections, and that the elections themselves will not be a test for democracy.  At the same time we have the report for former Polish President Aleksandr Kwaśniewski and EP President Pat Cox who say that there are serious doubts regarding the functioning of the judiciary in Ukraine.  There is hope of change, but no guarantee. What scenarios for the development of Kyiv-Brussels relations are being looked at? When it turns out that the situation remains unchanged, will there be visa sanctions for Ukrainian representatives, the freezing of bank accounts, etc?

The situation in Ukraine will be the subject of discussion among foreign affairs ministers during the Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 14 November. Such a type of conceivable scenario will be considered”.

- Mr Tombinski then went on to carefully disassociate his office in Kyiv from this topic, since sanctions have another purpose and are not helpful in building mutual relations.  The possible decisions are with politicians.

Asked what had struck him in Ukraine, the Ambassador noted the “absolute openness of discussion”  He said that given the hard-hitting nature of the critical views expressed, “in Ukraine you probably can’t say that there is censorship or also fear”.  The second thing was the radically different assessment of what life is like in Ukraine.  . 

I can’t avoid asking about Ukrainian political prisoners. In your opinion is Ukraine in this sense approaching the Belarusian model? Are you planning to meet with Yulia Tymoshenko and Yury Lutsenko?

Mr Tombinski says that even among members of the opposition, nobody compares Ukraine to Belarus.

"There are political prisoners in Ukraine, and this statement can be heard even from people who are closely linked with the current regime.

He said that this issue was being discussed by both Ukrainian and foreign politicians and Ukraine’s partners. … Dialogue with Ukraine is taking place at various political levels, and I have the impression that the current authorities in Ukraine already realize that delaying this situation makes Ukraine a prisoner of this case. In the same way that Yulia Tymoshenko is a prisoner, Ukraine has also become a prisoner of Yulia Tymoshenko, "

From a longer interview, with the interviewer Lidia Ivanyukh

Jan Tombinski replaced Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira on 10 September this year. 

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