Acceding to one of the key demands of the EuroMaiden protesters, the Ukrainian Parliament has voted to free Yulia Tymoshenko, a leading member of the Fatherland opposition party and the country's former prime minister. She has been detained for more than two years on charges that critics believe to be politically motivated, and orchestrated by current president Viktor Yanukovych.
The Associated Press reports that "legislators voted 310-54 to decriminalize the count under which she was imprisoned, meaning that she is no longer guilty of a criminal offense." Parliament voted to decriminalize the charge of "abuse of power," which earned Tymoshenko a seven-year sentence in 2010. Political consultant Taras Berezovets told the Kyiv Post that though the new legislation was passed with a constitutional majority, it must be signed by President Viktor Yanukovych before Tymoshenko can be released. Yanukovych has 15 days to sign the legislation, but a veto could also be overridden if he refuses to sign. The Kyiv Post continues:
Batkivshchyna Party lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov, a close ally of Tymoshenko and her former deputy prime minister, said the articles were not cancelled but "are being brought in line with European legislation" in accordance with recommendations from multiple international institutions. Tymoshenko has been in prison since August 2011 and was convicted for abuse of office stemming from a gas deal she brokered two years earlier with Russia. Many leaders in the West and even in Russia questioned the veracity of her trial and labeled her conviction a sham.
Berezovets added that the protesters will celebrate her release, but still push for Yanukovych's prosecution and might see this as an attempt to compromise. It's not yet clear when (or if) she will be free to leave the penitentiary where she is being held.
Tymoshenko is an old political rival of Yanukovych — he defeated her in a runoff election for President in 2010 — and her imprisonment has made her a celebrated martyr to anti-government forces. Her release is also a sign that Yanukovych is indeed losing control in Kiev. According to Tymoshenko's lawyer, even after the law is signed it could take up to two weeks for her to walk free. But then she will be able to run for office again, as her criminal record will have been wiped. However, he's not too optimistic about that prospect, telling the Kyiv Post that "It's easier for [the pro-Yanukovych prosecutor] to accuse her of a million new crimes than allow her to go free."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.