Andrew Osborn








Yulia Tymoshenko husband wins asylum in Czech Republic, 6th January 2012 15:15

By , Moscow

The husband of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has won political asylum in the Czech Republic, after successfully arguing that the authorities were persecuting him in order to pressure his wife.

Oleksandr Tymoshenko, a 51-year-old businessman, fled to the Czech Republic in December where he lodged a formal application for political asylum, it emerged on Friday.

Jan Kubice, the Czech interior minister, told local media his application had been successful. “The request has been dealt with positively,” he told Czech Television, adding that the decision, which is likely to damage relations between the two countries, had been taken on Friday.

The Ukrainian businessman's high profile wife was jailed in Ukraine last year for abuse of office and sentenced to seven years in prison after a trial the West condemned as politically-motivated.

Her incarceration followed her unsuccessful 2010 bid to become Ukrainian president, a contest she narrowly lost to Viktor Yanukovych after months of trading serious allegations with the former mechanic.

The heroine of the 2004 pro-Western Orange revolution, Mrs Tymoshenko insisted that her conviction was President Yanukovych's way of preventing her from challenging him at the ballot box again.

He has repeatedly denied that however, claiming not to have interfered in her trial, suggesting she really was guilty of wrongdoing.

Suffering from a bad back problem and confined to a cell where the lights are never switched off, Ms Tymoshenko, 51, is facing a string of other criminal cases which her supporters claim are aimed at extending her jail term still further.

Her Fatherland party said on Friday that her husband's decision to seek asylum was meant to prevent her political enemies from trying to use him to pressure her into falsely confessing to anything.

"This step by Oleksandr Tymoshenko is in response to amoral attempts to pressure and torment Yulia Tymoshenko by persecuting her loved ones and family," it said.

"Yanukovych has chosen the dirtiest tactic: to break Yulia Tymoshenko by pressuring members of her family. His decision to seek political asylum was dictated by the desire to deprive the regime of mechanisms to pressure the leader of our party." A family lawyer made it clear that Mrs Tymoshenko's daughter Yevgenia, 31, would also consider seeking asylum abroad if the authorities tried to pressure her too.

In 2001, during a standoff with Ukraine's then president, Yulia and Oleksandr Tymoshenko were both thrown in jail on corruption and embezzlement charges before eventually being exonerated by the supreme court. That case has since been controversially reopened however, raising the prospect of fresh jail time for Mr Tymoshenko. Bohdan Danylyshynin, a Tymoshenko ally, was granted asylum in the Czech Republic last year after claiming he too had been hounded by the Ukrainian authorities.