Ruling on Tymoshenko must not derail ties with Ukraine says Bruce Rickerson, former U.S. State Department Official

May 13, 2013, 15:02 ET from US-Ukraine Observer

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the US-Ukraine Observer:

Former U.S. Department of State and Senate Foreign Relations Committee official Dr. Bruce Rickerson has observed that the European Union's decision on signing an Association Agreement with Ukraine will have profound implications on Ukraine's relations with the E.U., Russia, and the United States, yet has been delayed over calls to free former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymshenko.  In a commentary published by the prestigious United Press International, Rickerson writes:  "As the European Union and member governments consider their next move, it's important for them to consider the relative weight of Tymoshenko versus the European Union's interest in Ukraine. As Marc Champion of Bloomberg notes, 'The agreement might enable the country to export its own gas to EU markets and allow Ukraine to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, from which it gets 60 percent of its natural gas. Russia, on the other hand, says it will cut the relatively high price Ukraine pays for gas if it joins a trade bloc with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.'"

Rickerson writes that the European Union "upped the ante" on demands for Ukraine to implement legal reform when European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] ruled against Ukraine and determined Tymoshenko's fundamental rights were violated by Ukraine and that her pre-arrest detention was arbitrary.  "It appears that at least some in Europe are prepared to insist on Tymoshenko's release as a take-it-or-leave-it demand to Kiev. In particular, Wilfried Martens, head of the Center-Right 'European People's Party' bloc in the European Parliament, has said he and his aligned parliamentarians will support the offer 'only if the Ukrainian authorities fulfill the conditions put forward by the European Union, including the end of selective justice and the immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko.'," writes Rickerson.  "Some countries, notably Poland, Sweden, and other key participants in the European Union's 'Eastern Partnership,' want the offer made despite Tymoshenko's continued imprisonment," he continues.

In his commentary, Rickerson points out that the non-binding ECHR ruling dealt only with the issue of Tymoshenko's pre-trial detention on corruption charges for a gas deal with the Russian government, not with murder charges that Tymoshenko faces.  Rickerson writes: "As Renat Kuzmin, chief prosecutor in the Tymoshenko case explained in the U.S.-Ukraine Observer, the Shcherban charges place a moral and legal burden on Ukraine to get to the truth: 'There is no doubt that the termination of criminal case concerning the murder of four people would be a great sin before God and man. If this were permitted to occur, we would be committing another crime, showing a new generation that a powerful politician may with impunity act illegally, and even murder people.'  Kuzmin, who has been personally vilified and subjected to a U.S. visa revocation for his role in prosecuting Tymoshenko, remains steadfast in his determination to pursue the murder case against her.  Will the European Union be prepared to dismiss out of hand concerns Kuzmin raises -- concerns the ECHR didn't address -- at the risk of permanently alienating Ukraine and, in that event, pushing Kiev into the Moscow-led Customs Union? Absorption of Ukraine into the Customs Union would be a huge windfall for the Russian-led, resurgent neo-Soviet bloc, which still sees the west (not only the European Union but especially the United States) as a strategic adversary.

Bruce M. Rickerson formerly served in a professional capacity with the Organization of American States, the U.S. Department of State, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and taught at the university level.

United Press International: "Ruling on Tymoshenko must not derail Ukraine ties

SOURCE US-Ukraine Observer