Tymoshenko poised to help third president self-destruct
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.