In early 2005, the Ukrainian people had much to be excited about. Following two months of daily protests throughout Ukraine, what had subsequently become known as the ‘Orange Revolution’ was at an end. The revolution had been sparked by widespread allegations of corruption and electoral fraud in the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, installing Viktor Yanukovych as President. Co-led by presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and businesswoman turned politician, Yulia Tymoshenko, protesters demanded a revote. This was granted by the Ukrainian Supreme Court on 26 December 2004, finding a clear victory for Yushchenko and marking the end of the ‘Orange Revolution’. Yushchenko appointed Tymoshenko, a keen reformist, as his Prime Minister, leading to hopes that Ukraine would finally become a truly democratic state, leaving its Soviet past behind.
However, hope soon turned into despair. Just months into the new government bitter feuds ensued between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, leading to her dismissal. She returned as Prime Minister under President Yuschenko between 2007 and 2010, however yet again the relationship was marred by mistrust and hostility. Tymoshenko subsequently ran for the 2010 Ukrainian Presidential Election, but narrowly lost to current President Viktor Yanukovych. Tymoshenko accused her rival of widespread electoral fraud and vote rigging. It is from this point on that the persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko began.
From the very beginning of his term as President it seems that Viktor Yanukovych was determined to get revenge on his political rival. Since 2010 numerous criminal cases have been brought against Tymoshenko, all of which are without legal basis and have been declared ‘politically motivated’ by Amnesty International. Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven year sentence for abuse of office after having been found ‘guilty’ of unduly harming Ukrainian interests when negotiating a gas deal with Russia.
She was sent to serve her sentence in the city of Kharkiv approximately 300 miles from Kiev where she has been subjected to both physical and psychological abuse, leaving her unable to walk due to severe back injuries and is essentially bed ridden. Following international pressure she has subsequently been transferred to a hospital. However, according to her daughter, Eugenia Tymoshenko, this lacks both the equipment and staff to provide suitable medical treatment. Video cameras have also been installed in Tymoshenko’s hospital room to provide constant surveillance. This seems to be merely another way for the State to inflict further psychological abuse; after all she is hardly likely to run away.
However, it seems that President Yanukovych has not finished with Tymoshenko yet. Last month, Ukrainian authorities informed the former Prime Minister that she is now a suspect in the murder of a Ukrainian MP which took place in 1996. If charges are officially brought against Tymoshenko, as expected, she faces life imprisonment. This new allegation, like all the others, is absurd. As her daughter highlighted in a recent interview with The Guardian, in the sixteen years they have been investigating this murder her mother’s name has not been mentioned once, so why now?
Yulia Tymoshenko has received much support from the West and many EU countries boycotted matches hosted by Ukraine during Euro 2012 in protest of her imprisonment. However, considering these recent allegations, it seems that Yanukovych has not got the message. We must all speak out louder to ensure that this persecution is ended once and for all.