Yuri Lutsenko, former Interior Minister of the Tymoshenko government has now been jailed for 4 years for embezzlement and misuse of office, this despite EU, Council of Europe and other international concern.
(He will actually serve just under 3 years having been on remand for just over a year.)
It immediately invoked critical statements from the UK’s Foreign Minister David Lidington and Baroness Ashton from the EU, to name but a few. Once again there are no claims relating to innocence but concerns over due process and selective application of the laws.
Mr Klyev on behalf of Ukraine does make a good point that nobody, even politicians can be above the law, however the EU would not disagree with that. The EU is in fact encouraging Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to go after ex-politicians for past nefarious actions.
One has to suspect the Mr Lutsenko will begin an appeals process in the very near future and we should not forget the possible implications of the new Criminal Procedure Code pending parliamentary vote that I wrote about a few days ago.
So, in light of Mr Lutsenko’s jailing and further foreign public statements and concerns, how does that affect Ukraine? Well, quite frankly it doesn’t very much.
Yes the chattering classes and human rights critics will be up in arms as further proof of Ukrainian authoritarianism under the current powers that be, but it will certainly not have come as a surprise to the international interlocutors or diplomats. The statements made by them could have been written weeks ago in preparation.
Why do I say this? Well, if there is currently no legal framework for the release of Tymoshenko (pending the introduction of the new Criminal Procedures Code), then there is also no legal framework to intervene in the Lutsenko trial and verdict either.
As external observers worry about the politicalisation of the judiciary in Ukraine, it is unlikely that the President will jump in and trump the legal system and prove that very point at their behest having made repeated claims that he personally has not had any influence on the process or outcome.
We can of course ponder whether he has or has not had any personal involvement, and it suits the politics of Ms Tymoshenko to claim that he has, however we must consider the competing interests and extremely powerful people within the PoR over which the President has very little sway. It is very difficult to believe that anybody in Ukraine could control the powerful such as Akhmetov of Firtash to name but two, or prevent such powerful people exacting revenge on rivals regardless of any wishes of the president.
It has to be noted that no foreign diplomat or politician has accused the president personally of retribution, but have rightly called on him as head of state to find a mechanism to appease European sensibilities. Would we really be so very shocked if there were dozens of diplomatic communiques that identify Mr/Mrs X as being behind the instigation of proceedings against Tymoshenko et al, rather than stating it is the personal work of Yanukovych?
To be honest I would not be surprised to discover Mr/Mrs X instigated such things without his knowledge, but then I live here and probably have a different perspective to those that do not. I would simply draw to the attention of readers that the media does not always report (or when it does report it is not entirely accurate or full) who has which fingers in what pies in Ukraine. Suffice to say that in a nation where big business and politics are one and the same the web is very intricate.
Anyway, further damage caused for Ukraine amongst those within the EU by Lutsenko’s jailing? Not really. Any diplomat and interlocutor worth their salt would have known there was only ever going to be one outcome given that the due process system has yet to be changed to allow for any “mutually acceptable interference” to occur.
As I wrote a few days ago, the question is when the new Criminal Procedure Code will pass through parliament and whether it would be right to retrospectively apply it to cases such as those of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko when Pandora’s Box may be the result.
We will see if a solution can be found over the coming months no doubt.