Tymoshenko's daughter addresses Kiev protest

May 12, 2012 - 04:51
  • A handout picture release on April 27 and taken on April 25, 2012, shows jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko showing what she called a bruise on her stomach. PHOTO/ AFP

The daughter of Ukraine's jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko addressed an anti-government protest in Kiev on Saturday demanding the release of the opposition leader.

"Mom, I know you can hear me now, and I am confident that you will return to us," a teary-eyed Yevgenia Tymoshenko said at the "opposition congress" attended by some 2,000 people and broadcast live by the private television channel TvI.

The rally gathered several opposition parties in a central square in the capital in support of Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year jail term after a disputed verdict.

"Freedom for Ukraine! Freedom for Yulia!" shouted Olexander Turchinov, Tymoshenko's aide and deputy head of her Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party.

The 51-year-old Orange Revolution standard-bearer, who suffers from debilitating back pain, was moved from jail to a hospital in Ukraine's second city Kharkiv on Wednesday. She had accused prison guards of beating her and released photos of her bruises.

Yevgenia Tymoshenko also read out a message from the opposition leader describing her desire to bring political reforms and democratise the country after elections in October.

The opposition parties unveiled a plan of action ahead of the parliamentary polls, which the West see as a litmus test for the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych following criticism over its increasingly undemocratic rule.

"First on our agenda (after the elections) has to be freeing the political prisoners, including Tymoshenko," said a deputy from another opposition party, Vyacheslav Kirilenko.

"This regime cannot govern the country," Turchinov said. "We must remove Yanukovych from power... and return Ukraine to the path of European development."

Tymoshenko's case has dealt a major blow to Ukraine's relations with the European Union, and Yanukovych faces a publicity disaster as numerous leaders are set to boycott the Euro 2012 football championships that Ukraine co-hosts with Poland.

The EU has expressed concern that the prosecutions of Tymoshenko and several of her former ministers are politically motivated, a charge that Yanukovych denies.

Tymoshenko has a court hearing scheduled on May 21 in a separate case in which she is accused of tax evasion, but her doctor has said it is "highly improbable" that she will be fit enough to attend.

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