Peter Lesniak is an independent Foreign Affairs Analyst concentrating on Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
On October 11th last year a Ukrainian court sentenced Julia Tymoshenko, former prime minister of Ukraine, to seven years in prison for abuse of power and illegal ‘behind the scenes’ deals with the Russian Ministry of Defence.
This controversial case has been at the top of the agenda for many political analysts and has hardly been out of the Western media.
Following her arrest, Tymoshenko accused Viktor Yanukovych of the same allegation – namely abuse of power and manipulation of court orders, in addition to the denial of free and fair hearings, mistreatment whilst in detention, violence and lack of basic provisions.
The final court hearing of the Tymoshenko case was set for June 26 this year. However the Ukrainian court decided, for the third time, to delay the hearing until July 10th, and again until August 16th.
What are the precise allegations against the former PM with regards to the gas contracts? Why do Ukrainian court keep delaying the hearing?
Why is Tymoshenko refusing the medical treatment in detention, and why is the independent EU delegation in the form of former European Parliament president Pat Cox and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski still having no bearing on the results of the case?
Firstly, what are the precise allegations against Julia Tymoshenko with regards to the gas contracts? The Provisional Investigatory Commission of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament) has released an official report earlier this year outlining all major allegations against the former prime minister.
The Ukrainian Parliament then formally issued a resolution accepting the report. Below are the five main allegations against Tymoshenko:
1. At the time of the unlawful interference with the gas talks, Tymoshenko concealed from the Ukrainian authorities the circumstances of the personal dependence on Russia and the availability of the conflict of interest.
1.1 The first circumstance is the officially fixed debt to the Russian Ministry of Defence to the amount of USD $405 million from the side of private commercial companies [...] the owners of which were Tymoshenko Yu. V. and her husband Tymoshenko O. G. This debt was directly associated with the state deliveries of Russian gas to Ukraine.
2. The terms and conditions of gas contracts were agreed personally by the Prime Ministers of Ukraine and Russia on the night of 17th/18th January in Moscow during secret, face-to-face talks. These terms and conditions violated the basic principles of Ukrainian-Russian gas relations [...] the Prime Minister of Ukraine Tymoshenko Yu. V. had no authority from the President of Ukraine or the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to change the previously reached intergovernmental agreements, all the more verbally.
3. The prime minister of Ukraine Tymoshenko Yu. V. required his subordinate Dubyna O.V. (Chairman of the NJCS, ‘Naftogaz of Ukraine’) to sign the disadvantageous contracts beforehand, using the threat of dismissal.
4. After the refusal of Dubyna O.V., the First Deputy Prime Minister Turchynov O.V. convened an emergency meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers (January 19th 2009). At that meeting, a vast majority of the members of Tymoshenko’s Government categorically refused to accept the Government Directives concerning such terms and conditions of gas contracts, which were non-market based and unprofitable.
5. The prime minister of Ukraine Tymoshenko Yu. V. having received the information about the refusal of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to accept the Directives [...] abused her official duties and [...] individually drew up ‘the Directives’, signed and sealed them by the seal of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and gave them to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NJSC ‘Naftogaz of Ukraine’ which Dubyna O.V and forced him to sign beforehand. As a result, the interest of the Ukrainian side have suffered damage in the range of billions of US dollars.
The abuse of political power and lack of procedural approach in inter-governmental contract negotiations merits seven years’ imprisonment. For those who do not know much about the former prime minister’s life before the Orange Revolution and assuming the post of PM in 2007, Julia Tymoshenko was a very successful woman in the gas industry.
According to the Russiaprofile, in the early 1990s, Tymoshenko ran a petrol company (which supplied the local agriculture industry with fuel), before becoming head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine in 1995. The company managed imports of Russian natural gas to Ukraine. By the end of the 1990s, Tymoshenko was one of the leading oligarchs in Ukraine.