However, there was no way to get around the issue of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s continued imprisonment for political reasons. Love her or hate her – and plenty are in both camps – many EU leaders are simply not going to overlook her case. Her 2011 conviction for abuse of power as prime minister puts her in the category of political prisoner, in the view of Russia and the West.
Why does President Viktor Yanukovych fear her so much? Because she is a formidable adversary. The political opposition today is much weaker without her. It appears that Vitali Klitschko will be outmaneuvered by Yanukovych and disqualified as a presidential candidate in 2015 because of his German residency. The field gets weaker after that, with no one – neither Arseniy Yatseniuk nor Oleh Tyahnybok – showing the capability of dislodging even someone as unpopular as Yanukovych. No one on the political scene is exposing corruption and dodgy dealings as effectively as Tymoshenko did while she was free. While Tymoshenko has been in prison for the last two years, the size and scale of questionable – to put it mildly – business dealings involving people close to Yanukovych and other oligarchs are astounding. Her voice on these issues is missed.