Groundhog day: Tymoshenko faces fresh charges
The criminal case against the former head of the Ukrainian government was launched by the country’s security service over crimes allegedly committed in early 1996 when Tymoshenko headed a private power company, United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU). Her co-defendant in the case is the then prime minister of Ukraine, Petr Lazarenko.
Prosecutors say Tymoshenko illegally used government money to cover her company’s debt to the Russian Defense Ministry.
United Energy Systems of Ukraine was involved in gas deals with Russia. Its multimillion-dollar debt arose due to non-payment for Russian gas sold to Ukraine. UESU was to supply the Russian army with industrial equipment of equal value in exchange for the gas.
However the partially-covered debt, which amounted to $405.5 million, ended up being transferred to Ukraine’s budget with Lazarenko’s consent. Prosecutors say it was “an attempt to embezzle a large amount of Ukrainian state funds.”
The case was launched at the request of the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, Nikolay Azarov, who had received a demand from the Russian Defense Ministry to cover the debt, which was never fully paid.
A probe into the episode was first launched in June, but the Security Service did not release the names of the suspects, referring only to “former officials” in the company and the government being investigated.
Yulia Tymoshenko denied any wrongdoing back in June, when a threat of criminal charges against UESU executives first surfaced. She said the case is based on “fakes” and accused President Viktor Yanukovich of persecuting her for reasons of political rivalry.
However, Tymoshenko’s defense team said it does not have any information about a newly launched case against the Ukrainian ex-prime-minister.
“We have not received any official information on this case,” said Yury Sukhov, who is representing Tymoshenko.
The former prime minister is under investigation over two other episodes in her career. She is suspected of undue use of money received from selling Ukraine’s quota for carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, and the illegal purchase of ambulances.
Legal reform to free Tymoshenko?
Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years on Tuesday for abusing her office as prime minister in 2009, over gas contracts she negotiated with Russia.
However, Viktor Yanukovich has expressed hope that an appeal will be launched on the basis of new criminal code which he said would be passed into law soon. Any appeal case will be heard in accordance with the revised legislation.
“This [Tymosgenko’s verdict] is not the final decision. An appeal lies ahead and of course its verdict, which will be reached in the framework of new legislation, will have legal force,” Yanukovich said.
On the eve of Tymoshenko’s sentencing, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich presented new draft legislation to the Rada (Local State Duma) which will abolish criminal responsibility for a number of economic crimes. In other words he hinted that if his draft is accepted, Tymoshenko could be freed. The Rada is to discuss Yanukovich’s draft next week.