Tymoshenko’s daughter: Ukraine becoming a ‘Stalinist regime’

"The conditions of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist regime are back in Ukraine," said Yevgenia Tymoshenko in a meeting with reporters in Washington today.  The daughter of imprisoned former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is in Washington this week trying to raise awareness of her mother’s condition and the deterioration of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

"The conditions of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist regime are back in Ukraine," said Yevgenia Tymoshenko in a meeting with reporters in Washington today. 

The daughter of imprisoned former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is in Washington this week trying to raise awareness of her mother's condition and the deterioration of democracy in Ukraine. Yesterday, she testified on Capitol Hill and met with Vice President Joe Biden.

In today's briefing, she described the conditions in which her mother has been kept since she was sentenced to seven years in prison last October: 

"The conditions of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist regime are back in Ukraine," said Yevgenia Tymoshenko in a meeting with reporters in Washington today. 

The daughter of imprisoned former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is in Washington this week trying to raise awareness of her mother’s condition and the deterioration of democracy in Ukraine. Yesterday, she testified on Capitol Hill and met with Vice President Joe Biden.

In today’s briefing, she described the conditions in which her mother has been kept since she was sentenced to seven years in prison last October: 

When I see my mother, her health is not getting better. They’ve equipped the investigation room with a special bed where she can lie down because she cannot stand up or sit down or move without pain,. That’s where they continue interrogating her for a few hours every day while she’s lying down…

Her cell is always lit 24 hours a day and she’s under video surveillance, which they say is for her own safety but it’s obviously just to put more psychological pressure on her. Recently they stopped allowing normal food to her. Just bare food. Just bread with no necessary nutrients. She didn’t receive medical treatment, although authorities keep promising  all the time that it will be possible for an independent doctor to come and see her, but we haven’t seen the result. No hopefully, next week, independent doctors from Canada and Germany will be able to see her.   

Tymoshenko’s prosecution in a chaotic, circus-like trial last year involved a 2009 negotiation with Russia over a natural gas sale, which authorities say harmed Ukrainian interests. Her colleagues Yuri Lutsenko — the former interior minister — and Valery Ivashchenko —the former acting minister of Defense — are also currently on trial.

While several governments and organizations including the European Union have condemned Tymoshenko’s prosecution as as a politically-motivated campaign against the country’s most influential opposition figure, officials from President Viktor Yanukovych’s government have maintained that the trial was carried out by law enforcement officials with no interference from the executive branch. Yevgenia, however, believes Yanukovych is directly responsible for her mother’s treatment:

He says in interviews … that all the branches of government are independent and he doesn’t have any influence on them. It’s funny, when there was pressure on him and he said ‘okay, tomorrow she will be taken to the hospital,’ the next day she was taken to the hospital. Obviously, we know that the high council of justice that was created after his judicial reforms, that the majority of this council are presidential people, and they can hire and fire judges and start criminal cases against them.

Until her mother’s sentencing, Yevgenia — who returned to Ukraine in 2005 with her husband, a British rock singer, after nine years living in London —  was never involved in politics. "I’ve never wanted to be a politician," she said. "My mission is just to help my country’s democracy and obviously to help release these political prisoners."

While she says she does not fear for her safety, she believes that her phones are tapped and that she is monitored by state security forces. Her father, Oleksander, fled Ukraine fearing his own prosecution and has been granted asylum in the Czech Republic. 

Tymoshenko believes her mother’s fate has had a chilling effect on the Ukrainian opposition, with many potential activists thinking, "if this can happen to [the former] leaders of this country than what can happen to me?"

I asked her is she believes there could be a repeat of the kind of anti-government uprising her mother helped lead in 2005, or even protests like those seen in Moscow in recent weeks.  "If my mom is out of prison, it’s possible," she replied. "That’s the reason she will not be freed unless the course of action is changed."

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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