KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said on Wednesday she has faith in the United States justice system to do the right thing after last week’s indictment of Paul Manafort, the man who helped bring her arch enemy to power.
A political survivor and the strident voice of Ukraine’s 2004/2005 Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko was jailed during the pro-Kremlin presidency of Viktor Yanukovich in 2011 in a case condemned by Western leaders as selective justice.
According to the indictment of Manafort, who was a consultant to Yanukovich’s Party of Regions before becoming Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort used offshore accounts to secretly pay $4 million for a report on her imprisonment.
Ordered under house arrest as he awaits trial, Manafort has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment on charges that include money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent of Yanukovich’s government.
Money laundering allegations against Manafort are not new: Tymoshenko herself made them in a legal case she filed in New York against Yanukovich, Manafort and others that was dismissed in September 2015.
“As a result of the work of Yanukovich and his circle, I ended up in prison,” the 56-year-old Tymoshenko said in an interview, in her first public comments about Manafort since his indictment.
She said Yanukovich spent huge sums to blacken her name, “... without doubt this affected my life and that of my family and team in a certain way, and Ukraine as well,” she said.
“That is why I believe that U.S. justice will deal with the details, including our claims, and we will get a ruling from one of the most effective legal systems in the world - the U.S. system.”
Manafort joined the Trump presidential campaign in March 2016 and later became campaign manager, but he was forced to resign in August as questions emerged about his previous work for Yanukovich’s party.
She used her fiery brand of oratory to try to humiliate Yanukovich, but he proved her nemesis after beating her in a 2010 election for president.
She was charged with abuse of power in relation to a gas import agreement signed with Russia in 2009 as prime minister and was jailed.
She was freed from prison in February 2014 after Yanukovich fled into exile to Russia during the pro-Western Maidan protests and she addressed crowds from a wheelchair on Kiev’s Independence Square because of chronic back trouble.
The crowd’s sympathy for her condition did not help her though to regain a place in the new pro-western leadership and she lost to President Petro Poroshenko in the 2014 election.
But the two-time prime minister who still sports a trademark peasant braid in her hair is now Poroshenko’s main challenger at presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2019, according to opinion polls.
Tymoshenko said Kiev should have a new type of agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which has propped up Ukraine’s economy with a $17.5 billion aid programme conditional on economic reforms and tackling entrenched graft.
The IMF programme is in choppy waters: as of now Ukraine has refused to implement a sharp hike in gas prices it had previously agreed to, while the Fund is also studying whether recently passed pension changes pass muster.
“When I served as prime minister I cooperated with the IMF and I believe that Ukraine can have positive cooperation with the IMF,” she said, when asked whether she would do as the IMF says or abandon the programme. “But it seems to me that there needs to be a different emphasis in this cooperation.”
She said the programme should be focused not on what she termed a reduction in social spending, but instead on tax reform and reducing the size of Ukraine’s shadow economy.