This is the price for being the daughter of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for an abuse of office conviction that many in Ukraine and globally consider politically motivated.

In a typical week, Eugenia flies from Kyiv to Kharkiv and back a couple of times to see her mother, who is in a hospital still undergoing treatment for spinal hernia.

The rest of the time she travels to the West to spread her message at as many seminars, meetings, conferences and hearings as possible.

She sees her father, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, only once every two months or so. He received political asylum in the Czech Republic almost a year ago. Recently, all his assets in Ukraine were frozen. Oleksandr Klymenko, head of the State Tax Service, said he failed to pay some fines and the assets were arrested to prevent them from being sold.

Eugenia almost never talks to the Ukrainian press about this. She does not trust most local media. She asked to be interviewed in English. And the way she quickly answers makes it clear there are few questions about Yulia she has not answered before in her frequent talks with Western media.

“She is a hostage of political terrorists,” Eugenia said about her mother, who passed the 500-day imprisonment milestone on Dec. 20, when the Kyiv Post interviewed her daughter and only child.

Eugenia, 32, adds that not only was her mother “illegally trapped” and “deliberately isolated,” she is still in pain and cannot walk without aid. She also said her mother remains under 24-hour surveillance.

“She is trying to use all her willpower to fight the disease and to fight the pain, and to try to move more and try to go through treatment, under the watch of six cameras that are following her every move,” Eugenia says. “It’s very difficult psychologically every day to open your eyes and realize that three cameras have been watching you while you were asleep, and that every minute of your life is being watched and recorded, and then viewed by the male guards or somebody else… as a show.”

“Her privacy in the past year-and-a half, since she was arrested, has been completely violated,” Eugenia says. Ukrainian law has no justification for such recordings, but appeals to local courts have failed to end the practice.

This is one of the issues that Yulia has asked the European Court for Human Rights to address. She has filed two appeals.

The first one is over her detention, maltreatment, torture and removal from public and political life. A ruling is expected in early 2013.

Eugenia expects it to be similar to the decision in the case of Yuriy Lutsenko, the former interior minister in Tymoshenko’s government, who is also serving a sentence for abuse of office. “In some ways, it could maybe even have stronger wording,” she hopes.

In July, the European court ruled Lutsenko’s arrest was political and violated his rights. He was awarded 15,000 euros in compensation.

The government, however, has failed to act on this ruling, and Eugenia says it’s “a real concern” that the same will happen again in her mother’s case.

“It can lead to the point when the Cabinet of Ministers of the Council of Europe will have to specify how this decision must be fulfilled in Ukraine,” says Eugenia.

When Eugenia Tymoshenko (L) celebrates the New Year, her mother, Yulia Tymoshenko (C) will still be in prison and her father, Alexander Tymoshenko (R) in exile.

She says the decision normally specifies that the person who files the complaint has to be placed into the same circumstances as they had when their rights were breached.

“This means that Lutsenko and my mum – if her ruling is the same – should be free people,” she says. “This gives real basis for the Council of Europe to demand the immediate release of my mother and Mr. Lutsenko.”

Eugenia believes that it’s possible that with pressure from the West, her mother will walk free.

That’s why she welcomes actions like the revocation of the visa for First Deputy General Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin by the American government.

She is also heartened by the investigation of the Latvian government into alleged corruption during the purchase of an oil rig in a deal in which Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko features prominently.

Eugenia says that even while in prison, her mother is reasonably well plugged into what’s going on in Ukraine.

She communicates as much as she can with and through her lawyers, and reads the news and documents they bring her.

“Recently, we have brought her the new Criminal Procedural Code that she studies,” Eugenia says. “She is appalled and horrified by it, and I think she will issue her opinion about the new Criminal Procedural Code. It’s just another anti-reform for Ukraine.”

Andriy Portnov, the president’s adviser on legal issues and co-author of the code, disagrees, however. “One of the main trends we see is a significant humanization,” Portnov said on Dec. 20.

Yulia tried to be involved during the election, too. “She managed to unite the opposition; together with her colleagues she managed to get a very successful result in this election for the United Opposition,” her daughter says, but admits it’s hard to keep up from prison. Unlike other prisoners, Yulia Tymoshenko does not have access to the telephone.

“It may be hard for her to be completely informed or to actively take part in political activity because it was the whole intention of the authorities, of President (Viktor) Yanukovych, to try to isolate her.”

Yanukovych has maintained that Yulia’s prosecution was part of law enforcement’s larger anti-corruption campaign and that he has no influence over the judicial system.

Eugenia says the past 500 days “have been the most difficult time of our lives as a family.”
“We faced similar prosecutions and attacks 10 years ago, but… still we can say that that time there was more democracy and rights for people than now,” she says, referring to her mother’s brief imprisonment in 2001 for a month.

She was accused of contraband and fraud then, but her detention was also viewed as political because she was one of the most vocal critics of the then President Leonid Kuchma, who was losing popularity fast.

But the similarities do not end there. Eugenia’s sentiment about how to fight political repression, are also similar to the atmosphere of the early 2000s.

“We understand that there is no force inside of Ukraine which can stop these repressions and punish the people who organize them, apart from the Ukrainian people themselves,” she says. “I feel like I live in a country that has become a prison.”

Eugenia says her mother’s closest circle of friends and defenders are feeling “the second wave of repressions.”

Serhiy Vlasenko, her top lawyer, was recently banned from traveling abroad. The authorities, however, say that this is due to his ex-wife’s clai ms of his failure to pay for child support. Their fight on this issue has been extremely public and nasty.

Hryhoriy Nemyria, Tymoshenko’s former deputy prime minister, has been accused by prosecutors for failing to show up for questioning in an investigation into his party’s financing, a charge he denies.

“First of all, they want to remove the leader of the party, of the opposition from the political life, now they want to remove the party. It’s not going to happen,” Eugenia says. “This is just proof that this government is set to build a dictator state in Ukraine. And if they are not stopped, Ukraine will become a dictatorship very soon.”

And this goes way beyond politics.

“Like many Ukrainians, I wish to have my life back that we had three years ago, when we were not afraid to start up a business, when we were not afraid to invest in Ukraine, when we were not afraid to go out and voice what we think, without being afraid of being prosecuted or arrested.”

Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at [email protected].

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Comments (0)
Write the first comment for this!