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Ukrainian unrest

Interview by Tetyana BondarenkoDecember 3, 2013

Protesters aren't just demonstrating for the loss of their European future, says Yevhenia Tymoshenko. Now, the fight's become personal.

Protest in Kyiv
Image: Reuters

Under pressure from Russia, the Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych has backed out of the long-awaited European free trade agreement, sparking protests in Ukraine. Police used force to break up an an anti-government demonstration in Kyiv at the weekend (30.11.2013), but this has had the effect of bringing more demonstrators onto the streets. They are calling for the president's resignation.

Yanukovych's main rival, the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was jailed in 2011, charged with abuse of power. However, many in the West question the legality of the charges. As a result, the EU made releasing the ailing Tymoshenko a key component of the trade deal with Ukraine on the country's eventual accession to the European Union. DW spoke to the former prime minister's daughter, Yevhenia Tymoshenko, about the protests and her mother's role in the unrest.

Close-up photo of a protester wearing a photo of Yulia Tymoshenko on a T-Shirt Photo:picture-alliance/dpa
After Yanukovych rejected the EU deal, Yulia Tymoshenko called on protesters to hit the streetsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

DW: What do you think about the protests from the past week in Ukraine?

Yevhenia Tymoshenko: The main issue is not that Yanukovych rejected Ukranians' European destiny and refused to sign the association agreement. It's also because of the violence that has been used by the police force, organized by presidential people. They beat people up. The young people who were just guarding their posts at the peaceful protests. Of course that outraged people. Many more, up to a million, came out to the streets on Sunday. This protest is not just a fight for a European future for Ukraine, it is a personal fight for each person for their destiny, against the regime that took their businesses, that took their lives and took their European future from them.

DW: Your mother seemed to be a key component in the association agreement. What was her role?

Tymoshenko: My mother made sure that she told the EU that her incarceration should not be part of the signing of the agreement. She made several compromises. She asked the opposition to vote in its entirety for European integration, presented in the parliament. She even agreed to be taken out of the country in handcuffs. Just several days before the summit, she stated that if Yanukovych agrees to sign the association agreement at the last minute, she asked the EU to sign it without fulfilling her criteria on her release.

DW: What do you think about the Russian policy regarding Ukraine?

Tymoshenko: I am not in the position to comment on this question, but as a Ukranian I understand what Ukrainian power and authority have to do. First of all, they had to protect Ukraninan interests and stop corruption, because that corruption led to economic decline in Ukraine. Now the Ukranian economy is vulnerable, so we have to trade Ukraine's independence bit by bit with the neighbors who have a certain appetite for the Ukranian resources.

Portrait of Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimr Putin Photo: Reuters
Viktor Yanukovych, right, opted to align Ukraine's trade with Russia instead of the EUImage: Reuters

Now, after the failure of the European association agreement, which has been sabotaged, we understand that Yanukovych never had a strategy toward European integration.

DW: What do you expect from the EU in the nearest future?

Tymoshenko: Yesterday, when I saw my mother, she is on the ninth day of a hunger strike. She called for European leaders and the democratic world not to give Yanukovych's dictatorship a chance to develop. The beatings of the young people at the square is only the beginning.

Portrait of Yulia Tymoshenko und Yevhenia Tymoshenko Photo: picture-alliance/dpa
Yevhenia Tymoshenko, left, hopes democratic societies will continue to advocate for her mother, YuliaImage: picture-alliance/dpa

When hundreds of thousands of people come out to the streets in order to impeach Yanukovych and his government, we're thankful that European leaders support a Ukrainian nation who is standing up to fight. The opposition is there to help Ukrainian people and make sure their demands can be legitimized and heard by the politicians of the regime, but unfortunately we see that Yanukovych's politicians are ignoring the fact that the whole nation rose up and is demanding action.

As the daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, I want to appeal to the democratic communities of the world on behalf of those who are fighting for Ukrainian democracy now, and also ask them to continue the fight for my mother's freedom and not let her be a political hostage of the regime.

The interviewer was Tetyana Bondarenko.