Yevgenia Tymoshenko Appeals for her Mother’s Release

With Yulia Timoshenko in prison since last October, her daughter says Ukrainian politicians systematically sabotage the opposition

Yevgenia Tymoshenko

Yevgenia Tymoshenko told the press she fears for democracy in Ukraine | Photo: Matthias Wurz

“Believe me: This is a serious threat to the democracy in Ukraine,” Yevgenia Tymoshenko said, her voice disembodied, almost ghostly, her expression intent. She glanced around at the handful of journalists gathered for the press conference at Vienna’s Presseclub Concordia on 13 September. The 32-year-old businesswoman and daughter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko expects widespread electoral fraud in the upcoming general elections on 28 October on the part of the current Ukrainian government, dominated by President Victor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions.

It was a powerful accusation, particularly considering the source, and the words hung in the air at the conference. Yet those who were hoping for concrete evidence were disappointed. Yevgenia Tymoshenko only reiterated accusations of several NGOs of Ukrainian civil society and reports issued by her mother’s political party BYuT, while referencing findings of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) study of a few months earlier. The OSCE’s Assessment Mission Report of May 2012 had concluded that “allegations of vote-buying, pressure on potential candidates not to stand and misuse of administrative resources are widespread well before the official start of the campaign.”

The appearance of the younger Tymoshenko was not the mission of a politician for personal gains in an uneven political match. Yevgenia Tymoshenko has no political agenda of her own, nor any intention to follow her mother’s footsteps. It was, she explained, an act of public moral support for her mother, imprisoned since October 2011 for alleged abuse of power while in office. Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for having negotiated and signed a gas deal with Russia as Prime Minister of Ukraine that is claimed to have disadvantaged the country – a decision that she is currently challenging before the European Court of Human Rights.

“The current Ukrainian political leadership aims to eliminate the competition, something they have been quite successful in doing,” Yevgenia Tymoshenko admitted, looking back at the accusations and charges her mother has been subjected to ever since the fateful presidential elections of January 2010, where she narrowly lost to long-time rival Victor Yanukovich.

But even the phrase “elimination of competition” has a distinct connotation in Ukrainian politics, reminiscent of the early days of the 2004 Orange Revolution. The dioxin poisoning of Victor Yushchenko in September 2004 – the country’s President from 2005 to 2010 and former ally to Yulia Tymoshenko – was an attempt by former Russian and Ukrainian Secret Service agents to incapacitate the principle political rival of Victor Yanukovich so that he would have to drop out of the race.

Miraculously, however, Yushchenko recovered, following treatment by Dr. Nikolai Korpan at the Viennese Rudolfinerhaus hospital, and resumed his campaign: The rest is the history of the Orange Revolution, and in the end, Yanukovich had to concede defeat following the two-week street protests in December 2004. He waited six years for his chance to run for office again.

Today, Yevgenia Tymoshenko claims that subjecting her mother to imprisonment and repeated legal challenges is a way of taking political revenge: “The Ukrainian leadership wants to silence Yulia Timoshenko completely,” she said with a grim seriousness that was chilling.

But concern for Yulia Tymoshenko’s health has remained international news. For the past several months, she has been in a hospital following attacks of severe back pain, with 24-hour monitoring by six cameras. And just a day after the press conference in Vienna, international news agencies reported that hospital authorities had confiscated Yulia Tymoshenko’s Geiger counter, brought with her to scan for radioactivity in her food – a form of poisoning believed to have caused the death of former Russian secret service agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

With this important protection taken away, Ukrainian authorities may have sealed the fate of the country’s enigmatic and popular political icon, and of Ukranian democracy.

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