In a move widely seen as an attempt to subvert the Ukrainian opposition, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for “exceeding her authority” while she was in power. From the Financial Times:
In a verdict whose severity shocked thousands of her supporters protesting outside the courtroom, the judge also ordered the one-time co-leader of the Orange Revolution to cover losses of almost $200m allegedly caused to Ukraine’s state gas company by a 2009 gas deal she signed with Russia.Lady Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, expressed anger at the decision and said the court’s ruling would have “profound” implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship.
As Via Meadia wrote last week, the EU’s current economic troubles are occupying all of its time and energy, leaving little opportunity to concern itself with the actions of its neighbors. While the EU hopes to keep Kiev from moving too far toward Moscow, actions like this show that Ukraine still remains on the cusp of Russia’s sphere of influence.Paradoxically, the prosecution of Tymoshenko was intended to loosen Ukraine’s business ties to Moscow. The bad gas deal she signed with Gazprom locks Ukraine into an unfavorable relationship with Russia’s favored gas company. Convicting Tymoshenko of exceeding her authority in signing the deal might help Ukraine negotiate a less one-sided arrangement.Now that she has been convicted, pardoning Tymoshenko would help Ukraine strengthen ties to the EU once again without losing any bargaining chips it was hoping the court verdict would give it in the ongoing struggle with Gazprom. Any reduction in the fine could be negotiated and presumably would be.None of this speaks particularly well about Ukrainian governance; the crippling legacy of Soviet and Nazi mass murder, plus late Soviet corruption and stagnation made Ukraine a wounded and diminished society which is struggling to rebuild itself after what may be the worst 20th century experience of any society on earth.Neither the EU nor the US appears to have the focus and energy to deal effectively with Ukraine today. Expect more clumsy wooing by President Putin, for whom the reintegration of Ukraine into some kind of Russian space would be the capstone of his career. Ukraine remains at the center of Russian foreign policy and has fallen to the fringes for everyone else. No prizes for guessing the likely next steps.