Putin says Russia ready to accept Tymoshenko
(MOSCOW) - Russian strongman Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that his country was willing to accept jailed former Ukrainian premier Yulia Tymoshenko for medical treatment, amid growing EU anger over her case.
"If she considers this possible and if the Ukrainian authorities, our Ukrainian partners agree to it, we would with pleasure accept Yulia Vladimirovna Tymoshenko in Russia for treatment at any time," Putin said.
He also warned against any link between her case and Ukraine's hosting of Euro 2012 football games in June, after a string of EU officials and leaders said that they would be shunning the events.
"I believe that under no circumstances can one mix politics, business and other such issues with sport," Putin, who will be inaugurated on May 7 as president, said in comments broadcast on state television.
"One has to leave sports alone," he said, adding that he subscribed to the principle "sports is above politics."
Germany had made a similar offer to host Tymoshenko for medical treatment which so far has not interested the Ukrainian government.
Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October on charges of abusing her powers when she was prime minister, in agreeing with Putin in early 2009 a deal for Russian gas imports to Ukraine.
Speaking to Russian reporters, Putin reiterated that the gas agreements signed in 2009 were valid.
"The signed agreements are fully in accordance with both Russian and Ukrainian legislation," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Putin spoke after the EU's Kiev mission said that all EU commissioners would skip next month's Euro 2012 football events in Ukraine to protest the country's treatment of Tymoshenko.
"As we know, (European Commission) President (Jose Manuel) Barroso has no intention of travelling to Ukraine or visiting any of the Euro 2012 events," the mission said on its Facebook account.
"This position is shared by all the European Commissioners. (President Barroso raised this issue during a meeting of European Commission members on May 2.)"
Germany's foreign minister meanwhile said that EU countries were in agreement on delaying ratification of a deal with Ukraine because of concerns over its treatment of Tymoshenko.
"With our European Union partners we are unanimous on the fact that EU's association agreement with Ukraine cannot be ratified as long as the rule of law in Ukraine does not develop in the right direction," Guido Westerwelle said in an interview with the Rheinische Post.
Ukraine hit back by denouncing the threatened EU boycott of its Euro 2012 football matches as a "destructive" attempt to politicise sport that will hurt mutual understanding and ties.
"We view as destructive attempts to politicise sporting events, which since ancient times have played a paramount role in improving understanding and agreement between nations," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in statement.
Under Yanukovych, Kiev has made no secret of its European Union integration aspirations and steadfastly resisted Russia's pressure.
But the seven-year jail term Ukraine handed Tymoshenko has triggered a dramatic deterioration in ties with the EU and made Ukraine more vulnerable to the Kremlin's advances.
Tymoshenko has launched a hunger strike to protest her alleged beating in jail and is currently serving a seven-year sentence that EU officials view as part of the current government's vendetta against her old cabinet team.
Russia's state news agency RIA-Novosti, quoting a high-ranking Kremlin source, said that Moscow had made unsuccessful attempts to influence Tymoshenko's case.
"Honestly? We tried. Within the framework of Ukraine's independent judicial system. We said that wrongful acts were being committed against her," the Kremlin source was quoted as saying.
Text and Picture Copyright 2012 AFP. All other Copyright 2012 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.