Ty­moshenko poised to help third pres­i­dent self-destruct

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

Even in prison while flat on her back, Yu­lia Ty­moshenko can in­flict dam­age on a Ukrainian pres­i­dent. The woman who has helped de­mol­ish two pres­i­dents po­lit­i­cally – Leonid Kuchma and Vik­tor Yushchenko – is on her way to po­lit­i­cally de­stroy­ing a third one – Vik­tor Yanukovych.

The frail ex-prime min­is­ter is a hu­man wreck­ing ball for all who get in her way, de­spite prison guards and bars.

Ty­moshenko al­leges that she was forcibly re­moved from a state prison in Kharkiv at 9 p.m. on Fri­day, April 20, and taken to a state hospi­tal in the same city for treat­ment of her chronic back and spinal prob­lems.

She said three men came into her prison cell, threw a bed sheet over her “and be­gan to draw me off the bed – three to­gether – ap­ply­ing bru­tal force. In pain and de­spair, I started to de­fend my­self as I could and got a strong blow in my stom­ach through the bed

Bad things tend to hap­pen to pres­i­dents who get in way of ex-premier

sheet … I thought these were the last min­utes of my life. In un­bear­able pain and fear, I started to cry and call out for help, but no help came. At some mo­ment, I fell un­con­scious be­cause of aw­ful pain and came back to con­scious­ness in a hospi­tal ward.”

If true, this amounts to an un­con­scionable abuse of hu­man rights of a vul­ner­a­ble per­son in state cus­tody. The State Pen­i­ten­tiary Ser­vice says the as­sault al­le­ga­tion is false, and Ty­moshenko strikes me as ca­pa­ble of telling au­da­cious lies. But even if that’s the case, the state is still to blame for its con­tin­ued cal­lous and bum­bling treat­ment of Ty­moshenko. The mis­treat­ment starts from her show trial con­vic­tion on trumped-up charges to the state’s in­ept care of her while in cus­tody.

About the same time that Ty­moshenko an­nounced a hunger strike on Mon­day, April 24, a video sur­faced fea­tur­ing two in­di­vid­u­als who re­sem­bled Ty­moshenko and her lawyer, Ser­hiy Vlasenko, meet­ing in her prison room and even kiss­ing on Dec. 15 while she was still jailed in Kyiv.

A state prison of­fi­cial says the footage is gen­uine. If so, shame on the state. The au­thor­i­ties are then to blame for re­leas­ing a video­tape of one of its cap­tives. But this video – with a low, fuzzy res­o­lu­tion that de­lib­er­ately ob­scures iden­ti­fi­ca­tion – looks more than sus­pi­cious. The whole story looks like a PR smear cooked up to be trot­ted out at a con­ve­nient time.

In this case, with the help of a servile me­dia such as pro-gov­ern­ment lackey In­ter TV, the smear ap­peared to be timed to counter Ty­moshenko’s al­le­ga­tions of bru­tal­ity and com­pul­sory hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, as well as to blunt the news about her hunger strike with a sala­cious diver­sion. Are there any self-re­spect­ing jour­nal­ists at In­ter TV, which re­gret­tably has the most na­tional reach? If you’re go­ing to trick the public into think­ing the video was true, at least ask the State Pen­i­ten­tiary Ser­vice how a video un­der its con­trol leaked to the public – and, more im­por­tantly, why such a fla­grant in­va­sion of privacy as con-

tin­ual video­tap­ing of a con­fined and help­less in­mate is al­lowed to hap­pen in the first place.

This time, even the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry joined Western de­mands for hu­mane treat­ment of Ty­moshenko.

But this gets back to my main point – Ty­moshenko’s un­canny abil­ity to get pres­i­dents to com­mit po­lit­i­cal sui­cide, even as she has come only within 3.5 per­cent­age points of land­ing the top job just once, in the 2010 elec­tion.

Her mag­netism helped bring an end to ex-pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma’s au­thor­i­tar­ian reign in 2005. Kuchma had en­ter­tained the idea of seek­ing a third term be­fore shift­ing his sup­port to back­ing cur­rent Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych in the 2004 rigged elec­tion – only to be thwarted in both aims by pop­u­lar up­ris­ings that Ty­moshenko was in­stru­men­tal in lead­ing. Ty­moshenko knew the thor­oughly cor­rupt sys­tem that Kuchma had cre­ated dur­ing his 10 years of rule – af­ter all, she was a main ben­e­fi­ciary of it un­der the term of a fel­low im­pris­oned ex-prime min­is­ter, Pavlo Lazarenko., be­fore she switched to op­po­si­tion.

Next, Ty­moshenko man­aged to get Yushchenko to hate her so much that he tor­pe­doed his own fu­ture – and that of the na­tion – with his at­tempts to de­stroy her po­lit­i­cally. Vot­ers turned on him in a big way.

Now it ap­pears that Ty­moshenko knows all too well how to ma­nip­u­late Yanukovych’s fear of her po­lit­i­cal re­viv- al. The pres­i­dent is so afraid of her that he is will­ing to ruin his stand­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and with his own peo­ple to en­sure that she will never chal­lenge him again. She may not be the only one ma­nip­u­lat­ing him. The po­lit­i­cal destruc­tion of Ty­moshenko serves the in­ter­ests of many in Yanukovych’s close cir­cle, in­clud­ing the ex-prime min­is­ter’s pow­er­ful foes, such as bil­lion­aire Dmytro Fir­tash, who is part of the so-called gas lobby.

If Ty­moshenko ever be­came as good at build­ing Ukraine as she is at po­lit­i­cally un­do­ing three of its four pres­i­dents, there’s hope yet for the fu­ture of this great na­tion.

Kyiv Post chief ed­i­tor Brian Bon­ner can be reached at bon­[email protected]­hoo.com.

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