Yuri Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian interior minister under the then Yulia Tymoshenko government, spent two years in prison for abuse of powers. After his pardon, he spoke with Deutsche Welle about his country's future.
DW: Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych has pardoned you by decree. How did that happen?
Yuri Lutsenko: It seems to me that this decision was a forced concession of the Ukrainian leadership which mostly came about because of pressure from the democratic European Union, but also because of pressure coming from the Ukrainian opposition.
You got released, the former head of government Yulia Tymoshenko didn't. What needs to be done so that she can get out of jail as well.
Yulia Tymoshenko will be released very soon. For a very simple reason: I don't believe that the current Ukrainian government can win in face of the international community, Ukrainian society and common sense.
How do you see the prospects for the Ukraine moving closer to the European Union?
We definitely have to sign the association agreement with the EU. This door won't be open for us forever. It is already closing. We simply have to choose that path if we want a normal European life. I have told EU representatives during a meeting in prison: If that doesn't happen, a year from now you won't be discussing Ukraine's problems in Kyiv but in Moscow.
How do you want to work with the leaders of the opposition parties who have joined forces during the time you where in prison?
I won't found a new party or a new organization. I will not create an opposition to the opposition. I want to work out a "concept for a new country" - together with Ukrainian intellectuals who have many good ideas. And I call it "concept for a third Ukrainian republic."
Is there anyone among the opposition leaders who could successfully run against Yanukovych in the presidential elections in two years from now?
It will only be possible to win against the governing Party of the Regions if the opposition will agree on one single candidate. There are good candidates. Since I got released I spoke to many of their leadership - with Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and deputy chairman of the Fatherland Party, Oleksandr Turchynov. It's important that in the end they all said the person with the best polling results should be chosen as the presidential candidate.
Does that mean that Yulia Tymoshenko won't qualify as candidate?
Quite the contrary. I even believe that she is among the most likely candidates of a united opposition. Ukrainian laws do not prohibit people with previous convictions from running for presidency.
If you would be minister fort he interior again what issues would you tackle?
In my opinion, Ukraine's current court system and law enforcement bodies in their current forms should be dissolved. Then a new system using the Baltic states' model should be created from the ground up and be based on completely new laws.
Yuri Lutsenko is a close ally to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of power. The West has condemned the verdicts against Lutsenko and Tymoshenko as being politically motivated. The human rights commissioner of the Ukrainian parliament had asked for Lutsenko to be pardoned because of his poor health. Yanukovych pardoning of Lutsenko has been seen by many as an attempt by Kyiv to improve relations with the European Union. The EU had made the release of opposition politicians a condition for closer ties with the Ukraine.
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