The Electoral force of unsubstantiated allegations
While measures have been taken over the last few days clearly aimed at allaying concern about Yulia Tymoshenko’s health, there has been no let up in the coordinated efforts seen since October to add other criminal charges. Quite the contrary as one event on Wednesday demonstrated.
While falling short of agreeing to treatment outside Ukraine, attempts have finally been made to comply with the European Court of Human Rights indication on 15 March that the former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko must receive hospital treatment outside the penal colony. On Wednesday a delegation from Freedom House, including Daimon Wilson from the Atlantic Council, was allowed to meet with Ms Tymoshenko.
At the same time Ms Tymoshenko’s trial is scheduled to start on 19 April on charges of embezzlement linked with the United Energy Systems of Ukraine [UESU] Cooperation. There has been striking speed and coordination between different state bodies and the State-owned First National TV channel since immediately after Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced in October 2011 to 7 years imprisonment. That conviction was over the 2009 gas accords with Russia and elicited immediate and unequivocal international condemnation as politically motivated prosecution for a political decision.
The haste with securing a conviction on more obviously “criminal” charges has also meant that once again Ms Tymoshenko and her lawyers are being given only a matter of weeks to read thousands of pages of documents.
While a Freedom House delegation was visiting the former Prime Minister, Ruslan Shcherban, a Donetsk Regional Council Deputy from the ruling Party of the Regions gave a press conference. During this he accused Yulia Tymoshenko of complicity in the murder of his father, MP Yevhen Shcherban in 1996, i.e. 16 years earlier.
He stated that he had given the Prosecutor General’s Office documents substantiating these allegations. He did not divulge what these documents were, saying all in good time, and that he didn’t think this would be his last press conference. He asserts that new circumstances have come to light necessitating the questioning of Tymoshenko and Pavlo Lazarenko, though would not appear to have been forthcoming as to what these are,
He maintains that he did not name Ms Tymoshenko earlier since she occupied the post of Prime Minister and could put pressure on him personally, his family, and also his business. He did not clarify how her position as Prime Minister in 2005, and then from December 2007 to early 2010 prevented him from publicly accusing her before 4 April 2012.
Nor did Ruslan Shcherban specify exactly when he provided the Prosecutor General’s Office with information. This is no small detail since the Prosecutor General’s Deputy Renat Kuzmin accused Yulia Tymoshenko publicly of involvement in the murder of Yevhen Shcherban in August 2011, though did not make any effort to open a criminal file. Renat Kuzmin would appear to have been lavish with the same allegations during his travels around Europe over the last month.
It is worth noting that well-known journalist Mustafa Nayem recently published the results of an investigation into the apparently links between the trip to Europe of the Deputy Prosecutor General and the public relations company Burson-Marsteller. Although the head of the Party of the Regions faction in parliament, Oleksandr Yefremov denies any connection with the company, Burson-Marsteller’s own representatives are entirely open about having been employed by the Party of the Regions. One wonders how they would like to explain why they were also actively engaged in arranging journalist interviews, etc for Ukraine’s Deputy Prosecutor General. Kuzmin certainly presented the same position as the Party of the Regions deputies but the Prosecutor in any country is supposed to be separate from party political platforms. That includes Ukraine.
With respect to coordination and timing, we would just note one other criminal investigation, launched this time against the first deputy leader of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party, Oleksandr Turchynov and one of the first candidates on the new united opposition party in October’s parliamentary elections. He is apparently accused in his former capacity as Head of the SBU [Security Service], following a report by “veterans of a Special Forces unit”. of allocating flats as a method of bribing journalists.
This is by no means the first indicator that elections are imminent. It is, unfortunately, unlikely to be the last.