TALLINN (Reuters) - Ukraine’s foreign minister denied on Wednesday that the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was politically motivated and said he expected to move ahead with a cooperation agreement with the European Union this year.
A court on Tuesday sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years in prison for abusing her power by forcing through a gas deal with Russia her opponents say saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for gas.
The United States said it was disappointed while the EU said it would “reflect on its policies towards Ukraine.”
“I think that we will have progress on the association agreement (with the EU) in the weeks to come and it is my belief that before the end of the year we will be able to initial it,” Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko told a news conference during a visit to Estonia.
He said he saw no need to connect the Tymoshenko case with the EU talks and said all political parties in Ukraine, including the opposition, backed closer ties with the EU.
He also defended the court’s verdict and denied the trial was politically motivated.
“For us what is important is the message to society that nobody, whether he is a former prime minister, a current minister or a future minister or whatever else, is immune from having to answer for his actions,” he added.
In August, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said the country was aiming this year to finish negotiations with the EU on a political association agreement and on the creation of a comprehensive free trade zone.
Tymoshenko’s supporters say the trial was part of Yanukovich’s plans to eliminate her as his only real opposition.
If she ends up serving a long prison term, she will be unable to contest a parliamentary election next year or run again for president in 2015.
The verdict against Tymoshenko also irked Russia, with which the gas deal was signed.
Reporting by David Mardiste