October 14, 2011 / 1:41 PM / in 8 years

Ukraine's EU neighbours to block ties over Tymoshenko

Riot police stand guard near a board, displaying a portrait of Ukrainian former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and reading "The 68th day", during a rally near the Pecherskiy district court in Kiev October 11, 2011. REUTERS/Alexandr Kosarev

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The leaders of three central European countries will oppose Ukraine’s efforts to integrate into the European Union as long as the former Soviet country keeps opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko in jail.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland said Tymoshenko’s arrest had raised questions over whether Ukraine was adhering to human rights standards.

“We agreed that we support a pro-Western orientation of Ukraine,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, who hosted the meeting, told journalists after he met his Polish and Hungarian counterparts at a meeting in Prague.

“On the other hand, we are saying openly that we cannot imagine we would smoothly ratify the association agreement with Ukraine in a situation when the judicial system in Ukraine does not work and when former Prime Minister Tymoshenko is imprisoned.”

Earlier this week, Ukraine jailed Tymoshenko for seven years for abuse of office in a trial that the United States and European Union say was politically motivated.

The state security service opened a new criminal case against her on Thursday, alleging her involvement in a “criminal conspiracy” 15 years ago to embezzle state funds through gas purchases from Russia.

The European Union has warned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that bilateral relations will suffer because of the trial and completion of an association agreement, including the creation of a free trade zone, is in doubt unless she is released.

Reporting by Jana Mlcochova

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