From the Kyiv Post (Kyiv, Ukraine)
Kyiv (Kiev) Post Editor’s Note: The following is the full text of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s Nov. 2 appeal “to the nations, parliaments and leaders of the European Union.” Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who leads a faction that controls nearly 23 percent of the seats in parliament, was jailed for seven years on Oct. 11. Her crime was “abuse of office” in the 2009 natural gas agreement she reached with Russia as prime minister. She has appealed the conviction.
Yulia Tymoshenko wrote:
Dear European family,
Today, I appeal to you from behind prison bars, and I must rely on my family to bring my message to you, for otherwise I would be silenced. My cell allows but a few steps from wall to wall.
These are the physical boundaries of my personal “freedom.” A small window through the crossed bars allows me to catch a glimpse of blue autumn sky. You really understand the value of freedom when you only see it through a barred window. It is here that you perceive all the challenges and threats to your people’s freedom most acutely.
Seven years ago, in autumn 2004, after the bloodless and peaceful Orange Revolution, Ukraine felt a real taste of real freedom. These were outstanding events and great, euphoric times. Countries of the free world seemed to envy us. Ukraine became fashionable; tourists came to Kyiv to breathe the fresh air of our newfound freedom.
On the Champs Elysees in Paris and in the Via Condotti in Rome, people snapped up everything orange. Until now, I was sure that our revolution of 2004 was one of the most remarkable events in our newly independent country’s new history, and the most significant contribution by Ukraine to the world’s democratic experience. And though I write to you from a cell where my government hopes that my imprisonment will sound the death knell for our democracy, I still believe in the victory of liberty in my country.
Today, in autumn 2011, freedom is being silenced, jailed, and forcibly exiled from my country. The regime has given me seven years in prison; others wait in prison without trial and with no date for release. We must call things by their right names – an authoritarian regime has been established in Ukraine.
There is no more division of power into the legislative, judicial and executive branches; all authority is concentrated in the hands of one person. The regime’s goal is to steadily, stealthily enrich its members at the expense of the state and the people who are its rightful owners. But to achieve their mercenary goals, democracy in Ukraine must be liquidated.
I want to state clearly, though it is hard to accept, that today in Ukraine it will be very difficult for us to stop this mushrooming authoritarianism on our own. Those domestic forces that would protect our country against this evil are very weak: civil society is young; democratic institutions are both young and weak; our courts, our parliament and our media have been fully colonized by the authorities. Now they are in the process of destroying any remaining hope of fair elections.
To begin to recover our liberty, we urgently need the assistance of the world’s democratic community. Such urgent assistance would be signing of the Association and Free Trade Agreements between Ukraine and the European Union.
For Ukraine, signing of the document would be a historic breakthrough to the European dream, the final confirmation and protection of our independence; it would provide a hope of freedom and a decent life for 47 millions of Ukrainians, and the chance to abolish authoritarianism.I would like to thank the European family for giving Ukraine unique opportunities, during the process of drafting the Agreement, which we have never had during negotiations. This is a confirmation of the sincerity and dedication of European nations to the idea of Ukraine’s European integration.
But it is obvious now that signing of the Agreement is at risk; failure of Ukraine’s European aspirations looms. This would be a tragedy that would darken Ukraine’s future for decades to come. Our European future has been put at risk not by Europe, but deliberately, calculatingly, by Ukraine’s authorities.
They seem to prefer uprooting our sprouts of democracy and adherence to European values to democratic disciplines that the free trade agreement would impose. Twenty years of hopes of fully joining the European family, of finally putting behind the bitter Soviet legacy are dying because of the greed for power and wealth of a narrow clique around Ukraine’s ruler.
President Yanukovych and his entourage are breaking every precondition necessary for signing the Agreement. This is no coincidence, nor is it a misunderstanding. It is not because they don’t know how to do this or that the European way. They are consciously, purposefully, and cynically frustrating the process of Ukraine’s European integration, and reorienting the foreign policy course into the opposite direction.
That is why I appeal to you – the nations, parliaments and leaders of the European family – with a request not to allow your frustration with Yanukovych’s contemptuous treatment of Europe and the terms of the Agreement to prevent you from signing and ratifying it.
I ask you to disregard the deliberate sabotage of the process by the Ukrainian government. I ask you not to vote against the agreement because you think doing so may enhance my chances of regaining my freedom. I would not see my country’s European future damaged for any reason, least of all for my comfort.
Our ruling, criminal oligarchy and the people of Ukraine are not the same. They have different goals and moral values. The oligarchy thrives on lawlessness, absence of control, unaccountability, and a shadow economy; all of which are incompatible with European values. Ukraine’s people have demonstrated, by their courage and stoicism in the face of brutal misrule, that freedom, justice and solidarity are their core values.
Ukrainian citizens want to feel themselves full-fledged members of the European family; they want to shed the post-Soviet past and pathologies once and for all. The totalitarian past must be consigned to memory.
I appeal to you with a request: while taking the fateful decision on whether to sign and ratify the Agreement, think first and foremost of the European aspirations of Ukraine’s people. Ignore the actions of Ukraine’s criminal authorities, who planned in advance to sabotage and shatter the possibility of this historic breakthrough to Europe.
As I appeal to you, hundreds of thousands of the best of Ukraine’s sons and daughters stand before my eyes, fighting through the ages for the independence of our nation. I close my eyes and I can conjure the millions of Ukrainians killed by the Famine in the thirties of the 20th century only because they loved Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians are standing before my eyes who came out in the snows of Kyiv seven years ago hoping for Freedom.
I see millions of young people’s faces who are suffocating today under the pressure of the authoritarian regime. Our young people dream of breaking these grim cycles of Ukraine’s past and of becoming citizens of the free Europe. Do not frustrate their dream; do not punish them for the crimes of Ukraine’s regime.
It is for them that I ask you to sign and ratify the Agreement with Ukraine even if Ukraine’s government deliberately fails to fulfill the conditions of the last resolution of the European Parliament, because for Ukraine, this Agreement is not just the signing of an official document, it marks the rebirth of our long-awaited Freedom, assures the preservation of our independence, once achieved through much suffering, and will bring about the Europeanization of life for millions of Ukraine’s citizens. All of this is now in your hands.
I know that you are facing hard times in your countries. The EU is coming out of the global financial crisis; I know that the last wave of the EU enlargement and adaptation of the Lisbon Treaty need your energy and attention, but it is a great mission of the European family to carry real values to its brother European nations, to harmonize life in our unstable and treacherous world, and you are honourably carrying out these tasks. We, the free citizens of Ukraine, look at you with hope.
I know that one of the conditions for signing the Association Agreement is my release from prison as a sign that the regime will stop its political repressions and reprisals against the opposition. President Yanukovych is deliberately failing to fulfill that condition. Today I ask you to sign the Association and Free Trade Area Agreements no matter my fate. I cannot allow my personal freedom to be the reason for the death of the European dream of Ukraine’s people.
I believe that you will not leave Ukraine in the lurch and will help its people free themselves from the prison of an unchecked authoritarianism, absence of freedom, lack of rights and of hope that Yanukovych is constructing around them.
…I finished writing this address to you in my cell, in the evening. Somewhere outside these prison walls the sun is setting. But I know for sure that it will rise again over my dear Ukraine. And this will be the sun of freedom, dignity and greatness for a free people deserving of a future in a united and free Europe. Vote and ratify the Agreement with Ukraine; it will be our common victory over authoritarianism.