KIEV, Ukraine – The United States on Friday condemned the imprisonment of a top ally of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, calling it politically motivated.
A Kiev court on Thursday found former acting Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko guilty of abusing his office during the sell-off of a state shipbuilding plant in 2009 and sentenced him to five years in prison. Ivashchenko, who had been in custody for 18 months during the investigation, has denied the charges and said they constitute a persecution by political opponents.
The prosecution of Tymoshenko and her allies has significantly strained Kiev's ties with the West and threatened Ukraine's integration with the European Union.
The U.S. Embassy in Kiev said in a statement Friday that it is "deeply disappointed" by the verdict as the "latest example of selective justice" and urged Ivashchenko's release, especially since his health has deteriorated while in prison.
Tymoshenko, 51, the top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year term for abuse of office, while a former interior minister in her government was also sentenced to four years in prison.
Tymoshenko accuses her arch rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential election, of getting rid of political opponents. Yanukovych denies the accusations and says his government is fighting corruption.
Also on Friday, a team of German doctors arrived in Ukraine to examine Tymoshenko, who is suffering from intense pain due to a back problem and needs urgent treatment. The Ukrainian authorities have offered to treat Tymoshenko at a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv where her prison is located. The team of doctors from Berlin's Charite clinic plan to inspect that hospital and see if it can provide the treatment she needs.