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Ukraine Rejects Laws to Free Tymoshenko, Jeopardizes EU Deal

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Yulia TymoshenkoYulia TymoshenkoUkraine’s parliament rejected draft laws Thursday that would have allowed jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad.

The move could endanger the country’s chances of signing deals to secure closer economic ties with the EU.

Ukraine's ruling Party of the Regions declined to support any of the six proposals before parliament that would have paved the way for Tymoshenko to leave the country.

Tymoshenko's release is seen in the European Union as a key precondition for Kiev to sign free trade agreements, which would mark a historic westward shift, at a conference in Vilnius next week.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Vladimir Rybak instructed a parliamentary working group to continue seeking a compromise legislative solution on the issue.

The move was supported by Party of the Regions deputies.

A meeting time for the working group has not yet been fixed, parliamentary deputy and member of the working group Gennady Moskal told RIA Novosti.

Opposition deputies criticized Thursday’s vote.

Members of the opposition UDAR party, led by former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, called on the European Parliament to slap EU travel bans on deputies who voted down the draft laws.

The possible stalling of Ukraine's European integration is likely to be greeted with glee in Moscow, which has not hidden its opposition to the prospect of Ukraine moving closer to the European Union.

Russia has pressed Kiev to join a Kremlin-led Customs Union along with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and has threatened to introduce a harsh new customs regime with Ukraine if it signs the agreements with the EU.

Envoys from the EU have been conducting a series of intensive diplomatic negotiations in Ukraine in recent months, trying to break the deadlock over Tymoshenko’s fate.

Jailed for seven years in 2011 after a trial criticized by Western countries, Tymoshenko is the chief political opponent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

November 21 2013, 16:39

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