Husband of Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ leader Yulia Tymoshenko granted Czech asylum

Oleksandr Tymoshenko’s wife, the ex-Ukrainian prime minister, is serving a seven-year prison term for abuse of office

Politics & Policy|Foreign Affairs
Brian Kenety | 06.01.2012
Olexandr Tymoshenko (seated, right) with his daughter and wife (right) as the court delivered its controversial verdict. In August 2000, he was charged along with Yulia of embezzling $800,000 in public funds and forging customs documents to import gas from Russia. Although the charges were dropped, there is speculation Ukrainian authorities could reopen the case.

The husband of Yulia Tymoshenko — the former Ukrainian prime minister swept to power in the Orange Revolution who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of office in connection with gas deals sealed with Russia in 2009 — has been granted asylum in the Czech Republic, where he has business interests (via the company International Industrial Projects).

The daily Právo broke the news Friday that Oleksandr Tymoshenko, 51, who rarely appeared in public before his wife’s arrest in August 2011 and has never been personally involved in her opposition party, Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, had applied for asylum last year; Interior Minister Jan Kubice (unaffiliated) told a news conference later in the day the request, made months ago, has been granted, but declined to comment on the process. “The Ministry of Interior in principle does not give out information about the asylum process” expect to say whether the applicant was successful, he told reporters. Foreign Minister Karel Scwarzenberg (TOP 09), who acknowledged it could sour relations with Kyiv, said he had learned about it from Kubice at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

‘[The appeals process did not adequately address failings in the original trial of Mrs Tymoshenko, a trial which did not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal processes.’

The European Union has repeatedly expressed concerns about Ukraine’s handling of the case against the co-leader of the Orange Revolution. When the Kyiv Court of Appeals last month upheld the verdict passed down upon her, the spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton issued the following statement:

“The High Representative wishes to express her concern that the appeals process did not adequately address failings in the original trial of Mrs Tymoshenko, a trial which did not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal processes.”

For its part, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement the trial “illustrates how far away the Ukrainian understanding of criminal and political responsibility is from the EU one” and said the Czech Republic cannot accept the verdict, warning that the country would cease support for expansion of EU cooperation with Ukraine as long as there are “political prisoners” in the country.

As part of Tymoshenko's  sentence, Judge Rodion Kireyev said her actions had caused the state damages amounting to 1.5 billion hryvna (some $190 million) and he fined her that amount. She was also banned for participating in politics for the duration of her sentence. Amnesty International called for Tymoshenko's immediate release, saying she had been convicted of charges that were “not internationally recognizable offenses.”

© YouTube, Euronews – Reaction to the sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko (refresh your browser if video isn’t visible)

Souring bilateral relations

Relations between the Czech Republic and Ukraine deteriorated rapidly after Prague granted political asylum in January 2011 to former economics minister in Tymoshenko’s government (2007–2010), Bohdan Danylyshyn, which led to expulsions of Czech diplomats from Ukraine and the closure of visa departments of Czech consulates in Ukraine.

Bilateral relations would undoubtedly be further strained if Oleksandr Tymoshenko — who was charged by Ukrainian authorities early in the past decade over allegedly dodhy energy deals — is also given refuge here. In August 2000 he was arrested along with his wife, a fellow board member of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), on charges of embezzling the equivalent of $800,000 in public funds and forging customs documents to import gas from Russia. Oleksandr spent two years in hiding to avoid prosecution on charges that he and Yulia said were trumped up; ‘It cannot be ruled out that (the Ukrainian) authorities have focused on her husband again,’ Právo said.

The charges were all based on activities from the 1990s. Although he was released just shy of a year later due to a lack of evidence to proceed to trial, the prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling and continued its case against him; Oleksandr spent two years in hiding to avoid prosecution on charges that he and Yulia said were trumped up. “It cannot be ruled out that (the Ukrainian) authorities have focused on her husband again,” Právo said.

On November 16, 2010 the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko faction in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) was officially renamed “Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko-Batkivschyna.” It enjoys most of its support in central Ukraine and western provinces where there are fewer Russian speakers. 

The parties announced that People's Self-Defense Political Party would be merged into All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland” (Batkivschyna) in December 2011. According to a statement issued on Jan. 6 by the party, Oleksandr Tymoshenko requested asylum due to “increasing pressure being put on the opposition leader through her family,” and implied that current President Viktor Yanukovych — her bitter rival — was behind it.

“Yanukovych has taken a dirty path, seeking to break Yulia Tymoshenko through pressure on members of her family,” the statement reads, as cited by Radio Free Europe. “The decision to seek political asylumn is prompted by the desire to deprive the regime of additional leverage against the leader of the Fatherland party.” 

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Not a surprise

Corrupt Czech politicians grant a political asylum to a crook and a fugitive who was, as the article admits, panished for crimes committed in 1990's, when the pro-West regime of Yuschenko was in power - not by the Yanukovich government.  Why did he chose the Czech Republic, at the end of last year?  Because that is where some of his "business interests" are, a stake in International Industrial Projects company, as reported by the BBC.  It was the same period of time when his wife did what she is serving a jail sentence for nowadays.  Only she could not be touched at that point in time.  But the crimes of the Tymoshenko family stand by themselves, no matter what the Czech government moans about the Ukrainian legal system not being the same as the EU legal system.  Where is logic in that when the Czech legal system is a mess and is a far cry from the European standards in its essense and in the way it is being implemented?  Interesting to note that last year, the Czech government granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, a former minister in Tymoshenko's cabinet - yet another thief.

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