A former Ukrainian economics minister in the government of Yulia Tymoshenko, who was granted asylum in the Czech Republic in January 2011, says he will join forces with her husband — who was also given refuge here in December — to work to have the “Orange Revolution” leader released from prison.
Bohdan Danylyshyn confirmed for the news server Aktualne.cz that Oleksandr Tymoshenko intends to launch a European-wide campaign from the Czech Republic to free his wife, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of office in connection with gas deals sealed with Russia in 2009. He said the Tymoshenkos’ daughter, Yevhenia, is to head the initiative.
“We want to do everything for Yulia Tymoshenko not to be in jail, for the European Court of Human Rights to recognize that the charges against her are unfounded, and for Yuliya Tymoshenko to be able to take part in parliamentary elections this October,” Danylyshyn, economics minister from December 2007 to March 2010, told the server.
“That will be the main purpose of the organization that Mr. Tymoshenko will now establish. It’s his main task as a person who is fighting for his family,” Danylyshyn said, adding that it is almost certain the organization will sit in Prague.
The Czech Interior Ministry announced on January 6 that Oleksandr Tymoshenko, who presents himself as an entrepreneur and kept himself far from the public eye when his wife was in power, had beengranted asylum in the Czech Republic; it is unclear when the decision was taken.
‘We will mobilize all progressive civic organizations to ensure that the campaign to release the leader of the Ukrainian opposition really is massive’Olekesandr Tymoshenko founded a company in the Czech Republic, International Industrial Projects registered in Ústi nad Labem, in 2000. Around the same time he was said to have bought a house in the village of Lidice, about 20 kilometers northwest of Prague, though according to a number of media reports citing Lidice Mayor Veronika Kellerová and neighbors, he is not currently staying there nor been seen there.
The Tymoshenkos amassed a fortune in the 1990s from the gas sector which led to Mrs. Tymoshenko being dubbed the “Gas Princess.” Since arriving in the Czech Republic, her husband has declined to communicate with the Czech media. The only interview he has given was with the Ukrainian-language service of US state-controlled Radio Free Europe, which has its headquarters in Prague.
Yulia Tymoshenko was arrested in August 2011 and in October sentenced to seven years in jail for abuse of office on the account of gas deals she brokered with her then-Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in 2009. Her supporters and a number of foreign governments say the charges leveled against her were fabricated with the aim of removing her from Ukrainian politics. In 2010 Tymoshenko stood in presidential elections and lost by a close margin to her arch political rival, Viktor Yanukovych.
Daughter to head campaign
Although Danylyshyn will play a part in the European campaign to free Mrs. Tymoshenko from prison, he told Aktualne.cz said that the Tymoshenkos’ daughter, Yevhenia, will head it. “She’s planning meetings with a range of politicians regarding the release of her mother. I think some special meeting with many civic organizations will be here in Prague,” he said.
In May last year, Danylyshyn, who was also convicted for abuse of office when in the government in his homeland, established his own political organization in the Czech Republic, called the Ukrainian European Perspective (UEP). The day after he founded the organization, the Ukrainian After granting Mr. Tymoshenko exile, the Czech embassy in Kiev released a statement claiming his asylum was not ‘political.’authorities accused two Czech diplomats of spying and expelled them from the country.
Kiev subsequently delayed approval of credentials of Czech diplomatic staff and Prague reciprocated by closing visa sections at two consulates in Ukraine, which have since reopened.
“The UEP will work together with Mr. Tymoshenko, and we will mobilize all progressive civic organizations to ensure that the campaign to release the leader of the Ukrainian opposition really is massive,” Danylyshyn told Aktualne.cz.
Asylum ‘not political’
Following an apparent improvement in Czech–Ukrainian relations, sealed with a meeting in Prague between Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his Czech counterpart, Peter Nečas, (Civic Democrats, ODS) in December, it appears Prague is attempting to avoid another worsening of ties. After granting Mr. Tymoshenko exile, the Czech embassy in Kiev released a statement claiming his asylum is not “political.”
“The Czech Republic does not grant ‘political asylum’ but in line with its international obligations (…) provides international protection for exiles not only of a political nature, and those people do not have to be politically active,” the embassy said.