Russia’s recent step to essentially block imports from its neighbour marked the opening salvo in a dispute that may still escalate into a full blown trade war. However, with the prospect of further Ukrainian economic integration with the EU in the form of an Association Agreement looming on the horizon, might Moscow’s actions prove, once again, self-defeating?
The Tymoshenko case
Alert - No8 - 06 May 2013
On 30 April 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg delivered a ruling on the Tymoshenko v. Ukraine case. It confirmed that Yulia Tymoshenko – one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution (2004) and former prime minister of Ukraine - had been subject to arbitrary and unlawful detention before her trial in 2011. An unsuccessful contender in the 2010 presidential election, which she lost to the current president Viktor Yanukovich by a 3.5% margin, Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven-year prison term for abuse of office, to wit the signing a gas contract between Naftohaz and Gazprom in 2009 that her opponents claim had a disastrous effect on Ukraine’s economy.
The ECHR ruled unanimously that her pre-trial detention was not to make sure that she would face justice but was imposed for ‘other reasons’. Effectively, the court determined that the rationale for the detention of Tymoshenko, a leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, was motivated by political considerations. However, the complaint by Tymoshenko concerning alleged physical mistreatment while in detention was not upheld. The court also did not rule on the prison sentence as such, as this will be examined in a separate case. It is important to note that the ECHR’s decision is not final and the respective parties now have three months to appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber. While Tymoshenko is unlikely to do so, according to her lawyer’s statement, Ukraine can be expected to exhaust all legal possibilities to reverse the ruling.