EU ministers urge Ukraine to stop bluffing on Tymoshenko

KIEV Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:12am EDT

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt addresses journalists during a news conference in Athens March 27, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt addresses journalists during a news conference in Athens March 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

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KIEV (Reuters) - Two European Union ministers urged Ukraine on Tuesday to stop "bluffing" and reach a deal on the release of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The time for bluffing is over on both sides now. It's time for action," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said after he and Sweden's Carl Bildt met Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

A deal to release Tymoshenko, who the EU says was the victim of a political trial, is vital for the signing of landmark agreements between Ukraine and the bloc at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 28. EU foreign ministers will also hold a decisive, pre-summit meeting to discuss Ukraine on November 18.

The agreements would mark a historic shift towards the West and away from Russia for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

Yanukovich has offered to sign a law releasing his arch-foe from a seven-year sentence to allow her to go for temporary medical treatment for back trouble in EU member Germany, if such a law is passed by parliament.

But he has balked at a call by European mediators to pardon her and wipe out altogether her sentence - something which opposition supporters of Tymoshenko are still asking for.

Some in the EU say that the offer from Yanukovich does not meet the call for an end to "selective justice" in Ukraine - one of the EU's criteria for signing agreements in Vilnius on association and free trade.

The two mediators - Irish politician Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski - on Tuesday visited Tymoshenko in hospital in the town of Kharkiv where she is being treated under prison guard as they continued their mission to secure a compromise. They also met a senior member of Ukraine's presidential administration and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Bildt said the negotiations about Tymoshenko were part of Cox and Kwasniewski's mandate.

"We will not go into details, but what they report will be decisive. If there is a green light from Cox and Kwasniewski it will mean a green light for Ukraine," Bildt said.

"The important thing is whether there will be a green light ... we are now approaching crunch time," he said.

(Reporting By Ricahrd Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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