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Ukraine

Ukraine's parliament votes down Tymoshenko release

Ukraine’s parliament has voted down all six bills that would have allowed jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment. The move could scupper a proposed trade agreement with the European Union.

Having delayed a debate on the decision the previous day, Ukraine's lawmakers wasted little time on Thursday in addressing the six bills aimed at allowing Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for treatment on her back.

The bills received 200 votes in favor out of 450 lawmakers in Kiev - short of the 226 needed for the legislation to be passed. Not one member of President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions voted in favor of any of the bills. The outcome was greeted by chants of “Shame! Shame!” from opposition lawmakers.

"It is President Viktor Yanukovych who is personally blocking Ukraine's movement toward the European Union," opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament after the vote. He later handed parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak a draft of a decree granting Tymoshenko's pardon. “Let him sign it,” Yatsenyuk said of Yanukovych.

Key condition for EU deal

The decision to grant Tymoshenko treatment in Germany was a key condition in proposed free-trade and political association agreements between Ukraine and the European Union, which are scheduled to be ratified in Lithuania on November 28-29.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in 2011 for abuse of power. Her incarceration has been condemned as politically motivated by Amnesty International and several European leaders.

On Monday, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the need for Ukraine to meet the condition of the EU agreement, describing Tymoshenko as a victim of “selective justice.”

Ukrainian leaders have also come under pressure from Russia, which threatened consequences to the trade between the two neighbors should the EU agreement be signed.

ph/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)