Ukraine Uses Jailed Ex Prime Minister as a Political Card

The former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko might be released if all other disagreements between Ukraine and the European Union (EU) are resolved, the Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy told the press in Brussels on Wednesday.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power revolving around a gas contract with Russia. Her case is viewed by the international community as political prosecution and selective justice, and it brought tension to the relations between Ukraine and the EU. Negotiations on a pivotal free trade agreement included in the Association Agreement have practically stopped.

"I am sure that when this problem becomes a major hurdle in our strategy to move towards the European Union, a majority of parliamentarians would favor adopting an extraordinary decision in this respect," Khoroshkovskiy said, even though he himself is against adapting the law to favor a single person.

"If you sign the Association Agreement, we'll set Tymoshenko free," he added when asked by EurActiv news to explain.

A close ally of the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, Khoroshkovskiy is also a former head of the foreign intelligence services. He is regarded as a potential replacement for the current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

As charges mount against Tymoshenko, ranging from more corruption claims to ordering a murder, so do reports of her mistreatment in prison. Last week Tymoshenko complained that prison guards beat her up as she was about to be transported to a hospital due to back problems.

Even though Tymoshenko is serving a jail sentence for the controversial gas contract with Russia, Khoroshkovskiy said that Ukraine will keep buying gas at a high price until a new contract is made.