German president expects progress on Ukraine's Tymoshenko
KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - German President Joachim Gauck said on Wednesday he expected to see progress towards the release of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose detention in prison threatens to derail a free trade deal between Ukraine and Brussels.
"We have been speaking about the necessity of progress in the case of Yulia Tymoshenko and I believe that we will witness actions that will satisfy us," Gauck said after meeting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at a conference in Poland.
The European Union has said it would like Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and fierce opponent of Yanukovich, freed from prison before it will sign an agreement with Ukraine on association and free trade.
She is serving a 7-year sentence for abuse of power but the EU says she is the victim of political maneuvering.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski hosted the meetings this week with the German and Ukrainian presidents aduringduring a session of the multi-national Arraiolos Group. He told reporters: "I expect that Ukraine will fulfill the requirements for signing the association deal."
The EU-Ukraine agreement is scheduled for signature at a summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, which takes place on Nov 28-29. It is not yet clear though if the signing will go ahead.
Conditions set by the European Union include a reform of Ukraine's justice system, changes to the way elections are run, and an end to what Brussels describes as the selective application of justice.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday Germany hoped for a pardon for Tymoshenko, and that Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle would discuss her case during a visit to Ukraine on Thursday and Friday.
"Foreign Minister Westerwelle will have political discussions, and the case of Tymoshenko will be one of several themes. It could be a step along what will surely be a lengthy path to a possible solution," the spokesman said.
He played down speculation Westerwelle could take Tymoshenko back with him to Germany aboard his plane.
She has been in a prison hospital because of back trouble, and EU negotiators have suggested that, if pardoned, she could fly to Germany for treatment.
The deal with Brussels would help pull Ukraine into the European mainstream and out of the orbit of Russia, its former imperial ruler which retains considerable influence.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Writing by Marcin Goettig and Christian Lowe; Editing by)
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