Ukraine strips Tymoshenko ally of parliament mandate
(KIEV) - A Ukraine court on Wednesday ruled to strip Sergei Vlasenko, a leading defender of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, of his mandate in the parliament in a decision likely to estrange it further from the West.
The High Administrative Court of Ukraine has "satisfied" the appeal by Rada parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak and ruled to "end" Vlasenko's mandate, according to the decision read by one of the judges.
Rybak filed the complaint against Vlasenko, a deputy with Tymoshenko's party Batkivshchyna, arguing that he illegally combined his work in the Rada with working also as a defence lawyer.
The decision to take away Vlasenko's lawmaker status is likely to unleash another wave of western criticism, and EU officials issued immediate reactions on their microblogs.
"Does this bring Ukraine closer to EU?" wrote commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule on his Twitter account, calling the court decision "not European way".
"I'm afraid it's yet another step back from signing AA," tweeted Jacek Protasiewicz, vice president of the European Parliament, in reference to the Association Agreement on the table between Ukraine and the European Union that would forge closer ties.
Earlier this week a joint statement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and commissioner Fule said they were "deeply concerned by recent legal proceedings leading to possible annulment of parliamentary mandates," and were "paying particular attention to the case of MP Sergiy Vlasenko".
The two commissioners asked Ukraine to "avoid creating any perception of misuse of the judiciary for political purposes" in the case of Vlasenko, who is one of Tymoshenko's most highly visible allies and defenders.
The United States on Tuesday also said that the legal actions against Vlasenko "appear to be politically motivated due to his connection with Mrs. Tymoshenko" and urged Kiev to "honour the will of Ukrainian voters" who voted for Vlasenko in the October 2012 polls.
Kiev's prosecution and incarceration of the 2004 Orange Revolution icon Tymoshenko on abuse of power charges has caused a major deterioration in ties with the West, with President Viktor Yanukovych accused of abusing the courts to eliminate his chief political foe.
Tymoshenko was convicted in October 2011 but has spent the last nine months in a hospital where she is being treated for back pain.
She now also faces new charges of embezzlement and even co-organising the murder of a lawmaker in 1996.