Germany presses Ukraine over jailed ex-PM

KIEV Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:57pm IST

A poster, displaying former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R), is seen during a rally held by supporters of Ukrainian opposition parties in Kiev May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files

A poster, displaying former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R), is seen during a rally held by supporters of Ukrainian opposition parties in Kiev May 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich/Files

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KIEV (Reuters) - Germany's foreign minister urged Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday to let his jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko go to Germany for medical treatment and he warned against the use of "selective justice" in the ex-Soviet republic.

"I told the president frankly that we are following the Tymoshenko case closely and that our proposals for providing medical treatment for her in Germany remain on the table," Guido Westerwelle told reporters after meeting Yanukovich.

Tymoshenko, 52, a former prime minister and arch foe of Yanukovich, was jailed for seven years in October 2011 for abuse of office linked to a 2009 gas deal she brokered with Russia.

The Yanukovich administration says the deal saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for gas supplies.

But the European Union says her jailing smacks of political vengeance and many EU officials say a planned signing of political association and free trade agreements with Ukraine later this year could be in jeopardy unless she is freed.

"It is very important that 'selective justice' is not used in any system of values in Europe. It must not be allowed in either Europe or Ukraine," Westerwelle said.

The Yanukovich leadership says it favours European integration over forging a closer relationship with Moscow in a Russia-led customs union and hopes the landmark EU accords can be signed at a summit in Lithuania in November.

But freeing Tymoshenko, a fierce political campaigner, and lifting other pending charges against her could be risky for Yanukovich as he prepares to run for a second term in 2015.

Westerwelle declined to say how Yanukovich reacted to his plea over Tymoshenko, who was a major player in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that doomed his first presidential bid.

She later ran him close in a bitterly-fought run-off vote in February 2010.

The free-trade agreement potentially on offer from the EU would open up a huge market for Ukrainian exports - steel, grain, chemicals and food products - and provide a powerful spur for much-needed foreign investment.

German officials say allowing Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for medical treatment for chronic back trouble might present Yanukovich with a way out of the stalemate.

Westerwelle also met in Kiev leaders of opposition parties and Tymoshenko's daughter Yevgenia, who has toured Western capitals to drum up support for her mother.

(Reporting by Richard Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk, editing by Gareth Jones)

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