Graham Stack in Kyiv -
In a bid to boost its side of the Tymoshenko story on the international stage, the Ukrainian government is to send what it says is evidence that the former prime minister is guilty of treason to European and US institutions.
A parliamentary commission investigating the signing of the gas treaty between Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom January 2009 has found evidence that the act was treasonous, Inna Bohoslovska, an MP from the governing Party of Regions, stated in a press release on March 20. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is doing seven years on charges of abusing her office in connection with the contract.
"Today the Verkhovna Rada (...) heard and passed a report by the ad hoc commission regarding an investigation into the circumstances of the signing of gas contracts. The Verkhovna Rada has decided that this report will be sent to all European institutions and the United States, because the Verkhovna Rada found that there are signs of treason in Tymoshenko's actions," Bohoslovska said, adding that the conclusion was reached "solely on the basis of documents."
The treason allegations apparently relate to possible leverage the Russian side to the negotiations had over Tymoshenko personally. Specifically, the suggestion relates to criminal charges brought against her by Russia in the 1990s in connection with her business dealings. Former President Viktor Yushchenko has in the past expressed similar suspicions that Tymoshenko let herself be blackmailed into signing the agreements.
Tymoshenko's lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko said at a press conference on March 20 that he could not rule out that a criminal case will be opened based on the report. The current sentence against Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost presidential elections to current president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2010, is widely viewed as politically motivated and has been strongly criticized in the West.
In particular, the issue has held up talks over Ukraine's progress towards eventual EU membership, and, more immediately, does nothing to help resurrect talks with the IMF over resumption of a stand by programme, which the country's struggling fiscal position makes vital.
Tymoshenko and her party Batkvyschina currently have poll ratings close to those of president Yanukovych and Party of Regions, as the country moves towards parliamentary elections in October 2012.
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