A bigger bang could have been made by releasing former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, yet the president’s statement made no mention of his long-time foe. That Lutsenko’s imprisonment had been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights, while Tymoshenko’s case has been dragged out, gives Yanukovych some cover for keeping Tymoshenko in prison, but the question remains, why is she considered so much more dangerous than Lutsenko?
The answer may lie in domestic politics. Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have long been estranged, but the roots of the president’s grudge against Lutsenko go back to 2006. As then President Victor Yuschenko and Tymoshenko negotiated a coalition agreement, the Socialist Party sensationally announced that it would leave the Orange Coalition to support the appointment of Yanukovych as prime minister and a Party of Regions-backed government. Lutsenko rejected this shift and led a breakaway group that merged with Yushchenko’s now-defunct party, Our Ukraine.