Envoys ask Ukraine leader to pardon jailed rival to save EU deal

KIEV Fri Oct 4, 2013 10:24am EDT

Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko hold portraits of her during a rally in central Kiev August 5, 2013. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko hold portraits of her during a rally in central Kiev August 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

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KIEV (Reuters) - EU envoys asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday to pardon jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko, her lawyer said, bringing closer a possible deal to end an impasse threatening landmark agreements between Ukraine and the European Union.

The 28-member EU bloc wants Yanukovich to free Tymoshenko, his fiercest critic, from a seven-year jail sentence which followed a trial for abuse of office it says was politically motivated.

There was no immediate word on Yanukovich's reaction, though Tymoshenko indicated publicly for the first time she was ready to accept an offer to go to Germany.

The EU has been pressing for her release as a condition for signing deals on association and free trade with the former Soviet republic at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 28 and 29.

Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko's lawyer, told reporters that two European parliament envoys had submitted the request for a pardon to Yanukovich at Friday's meeting.

Tymoshenko signaled she was ready for a deal, in a statement released from the hospital in the northern town of Kharkiv where she is under prison guard.

Doctors from Germany, which has made it clear Berlin is ready to take her for medical treatment to solve the wrangle around her fate, have been treating Tymoshenko in Kharkiv for back trouble.

"I believe that this step will ease the situation on the eve of the summit of the Eastern Partnership," she said in her statement, referring to the top-level EU meeting in Vilnius when agreements with the EU are to be signed.

"For the sake of a successful Vilnius (summit) and successful Ukraine, for the sake of a historic agreement with the EU I am ready to accept this proposal," she said.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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