Ukrainian Leader Pardons Jailed Allies Of Ex-PM Tymoshenko

by
Reuters
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Sunday pardoned two jailed allies of his key political opponent, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, but made no moves to free the opposition leader herself.

Lutsenko

* Lutsenko was interior minister under Tymoshenko

* EU says jailing of opponents threatens trade agreement

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Sunday pardoned two jailed allies of his key political opponent, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, but made no moves to free the opposition leader herself.

In a move apparently intended to appease the European Union, Yanukovich signed a decree pardoning former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko and former ecology minister Heorhiy Filipchuk, both of whom had been serving prison terms on abuse-of-office charges.

"Yanukovich signed a decree on pardoning six convicted people, including Ukraine's former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko and Ukraine's former environment minister Heorhiy Filipchuk," his office said in a statement.

Lutsenko was serving a four-year sentence and only last week had his appeal against conviction denied by a court in Kiev.

The EU says the prosecutions of Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence also for abuse of office, and former members of her government are politically motivated and has made their release a condition for signing landmark deals on trade and political association with Kiev.

Brussels has, in particular, urged Ukraine to show progress in addressing the issue of selective justice, among others, by May, or risk having the deals shelved for years.

Despite Sunday's decree on Lutsenko and Filipchuk, Yanukovich showed no sign of clemency towards Tymoshenko who is his fiercest political opponent and came close to beating him in an election for president in February 2010.

According to the decree, Yanukovich's decision was based on a request by the state ombudsman, the health of the two men and other factors.

State prosecutors said in a separate statement Lutsenko and Filipchuk were released on Sunday.