KIEV, Ukraine – For the last few months, the people who visited Yulia V. Tymoshenko in Detention Center No. 13 have been slipping something into the stacks of documents they bring her to read – the handwritten notes known in prison slang as “molyava,” exchanged by generations of Soviet inmates, who would crumple them into pea-sized balls or roll them into narrow cones and shoot them out of blow-pipes.
These were not ordinary molyava, but notes that had been solicited from politicians in Europe – two presidents, two prime ministers and three foreign ministers, among others, said Hryhoriy Nemyria, a former deputy prime minister and adviser to Ms. Tymoshenko. She would read them and then pass them back, so that prison staff would not find them in their twice-daily searches of her cell, said Ms. Tymoshenko’s daughter, Yevhenia Carr.
“They write something like ‘Keep up your spirits, we are with you and will not let you down,'” Ms. Carr said on Wednesday, a day after Ms. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison. “It’s better than the statements in the newspapers or on the news, because it’s a personal kind of promise to her that she is not alone.”
Over the coming days, it should become clear exactly how much Ms. Tymoshenko has been helped by her friends in the West.
Tuesday’s verdict, in a case widely seen as politically motivated, was greeted with such international condemnation that it may wreck Ukraine’s free trade and association agreement with the European Union, which has reached its final stages.
On Wednesday, an adviser to Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told the Interfax news service that the president canceled a scheduled meeting with Ukraine’s foreign minister, who was visiting the Estonian capital, “due to changes in the president’s schedule.” He went on to call Ukraine’s drift from democratic
practices “a great loss for the whole of Europe.”
The prospect of international isolation has put Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, in an extraordinarily difficult spot. Western pressure has produced a deadline of sorts – on October 20, Mr. Yanukovich is set to attend a long-planned meeting in Brussels, and some European Union officials have suggested that they may refuse to receive him there.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry was cagey about the date on Wednesday, saying it has never been officially announced, “so how can we talk about its cancellation?”
A narrow loophole will appear two days earlier, on the 18th, when Ukraine’s parliament convenes to discuss a draft measure that might decriminalize the law under which Ms. Tymoshenko was prosecuted. An opposition lawmaker, Arseniy Yatseniuk, said on Wednesday that the president could sign the proposal into law the same day, so that “the authorities will face minimal losses in this situation.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Carr said she expects her mother to be free very soon.
“All the signals indicate that before the 20th something should happen,” Ms. Carr said. “The result of the trial is already a big mistake, a big kind of technical error. It’s just the story of one person’s revenge.”
A senior Western diplomat posted in Kiev said on Wednesday that the real test of Mr. Yanukovich’s intentions will take place in the coming days. Western envoys see decriminalization as an acceptable outcome, if it clears not only Ms.