Ukraine leader ready to let Tymoshenko go abroad
DONETSK, Ukraine - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced for the first time Thursday, October 17, he was ready to allow jailed rival Yulia Tymoshenko go abroad for treatment, as Kiev seeks to remove the last obstacle on the path to a deal with the EU.
EU leaders have made clear that Ukraine will only be able to sign an Association Agreement -- the first step to EU membership -- at a summit in Vilnius in late November if Tymoshenko is released.
"Today Ukraine does not have a law which would allow Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment," Yanukovych told reporters in the Donetsk region, his eastern stronghold.
"Political forces represented in parliament have now prepared a bill which will allow the solving of this task."
"Naturally if parliament adopts such a bill, I will sign it. Most likely, it will be a court that will take a decision about an exit procedure, about maintaining some guarantees," he added, without giving further details.
Ukraine's single chamber parliament the Verkhovna Rada would have to debate and pass the bill before sending it to the president for his signature.
"Consultants say that this should have been done a long time ago," said Yanukovych.
Yanukovych's comments were the first time he has clearly signaled his willingness to free his political nemesis as Ukraine and the EU prepare for the November 28-29 Lithuania summit.
The imprisonment of the former prime minister, who suffers from back pain, has been the single major obstacle blocking the broad political and free-trade deal with Brussels at the summit.
Yanukovych is believed to be looking for ways to allow his political rival to leave Ukraine without letting her stage a political comeback in the foreseeable future.
The ruling Regions Party is thought to be seeking to rush through parliament legislation that would allow convicts like Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad.
Crucially, even if she is freed, the legislation would likely still leave her unable to take part in presidential polls in 2015.
Earlier this month, special envoys of the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pat Cox, had formally asked Yanukovych to allow Tymoshenko to be taken for treatment abroad.
According to a long-mooted plan, Tymoshenko could be taken to Berlin's Charite clinic.
During a two-day visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev last week, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he believed Ukraine understood the time pressure as the clock ticks down to the summit.
"We still have an opened window of opportunity, and it is not to be excluded that this window of opportunity could also once again close," Westerwelle said.
Tymoshenko has said she accepted the proposal from the European envoys to be taken for treatment abroad but stressed that she would not seek political asylum in Europe and would fight for her "legal rehabilitation."
Tymoshenko was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in jail on abuse of power charges. She has denied the charges, calling them a move by her rival Yanukovych to remove her from politics.
The historic political and economic agreement with Brussels is expected to anger Kiev's former Soviet master Russia which has pushed for Ukraine to join a Moscow-led Customs Union. - Rappler.com