KIEV, Aug. 20 – The dispute over plans to strip lawmakers of immunity became less hypothetical Monday after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of an opposition group, promised to prosecute her political opponents should the Sept. 30 election return her to power.
Tymoshenko specifically mentioned current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Regions Party, and Rinat Akhmetov, the wealthiest Ukrainian and the key financial sponsor of the party, as the likely targets.
Tymoshenko said President Viktor Yushchenko was too soft on these figures after the Orange Revolution for alleged vote manipulation at presidential election in November 2004. She promised tougher action.
“I would like to tell Viktor Fedorovych [Yanukovych] and Rinat Leonidovych [Akhmetov], if they can hear me, that I am not Yushchenko, I will not sign an amnesty for them,” Tymoshenko said at a meeting in Dnipropetrovsk region.
The comments come as the dispute over the immunity has been intensifying ahead of the Sept. 30 snap election.
Now the dispute may further aggravate the campaign and may force the Regions Party to press ahead with the emergency session of Parliament on Sept. 4 to approve its own legislation that strips not only the lawmakers, but also the president, of immunity.
Yushchenko warned Saturday that such a session of Parliament would be illegitimate. He is supposed to meet Yanukovych later this week to discuss the issue, according to people in the government.
Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine, made the issue a No. 1 campaign issue ahead of the vote. But Yanukovych, apparently seeking to hijack the initiative, recently suggested holding an emergency session of Parliament to tackle the issue.
Shortly after the Orange Revolution, Akhmetov, whose fortunes are estimated at $20 billion, was apparently forced to spend most of the time in 2005 and early 2006 outside of Ukraine, mainly in Monaco, amid fears of arrest and persecution.
Many opposition figures, such as Tymoshenko, insist most of the fortunes in Ukraine in the 1990s were made via controversial if not outright criminal privatization transactions.
When she was prime minister in February through September 2005, Tymoshenko made the issue of reversing many of these trought “re-privatization” the policy of her government.
Akhmetov’s closest ally, Boris Kolesnikov, was arrested and kept in custody for several months in 2005 amid allegations of racketeering. Kolesnikov denied the charges and was later released by a court ruling.
Akhmetov was able to return to Ukraine after receiving immunity following his election as MP from the Regions Party in March 2006. Akhmetov, who apparently only once visited Parliament sessions over the past 16 months, again seeks a seat in Parliament. (tl/ez)