Kiev: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has submitted a request to his pardons commission to consider an appeal to free a close ally of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, his office said.
The request comes after Ukraine’s high court this week rejected an appeal by former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko against his four-year jail term for abuse of office and embezzlement.
He was arrested in December 2010 and is set to remain in prison until the end of 2014.
The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudswoman Valeria Lutkovskaya had earlier unexpectedly appealed on Yanukovych to pardon Lutsenko.
“Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has approached the Ukrainian presidential pardons commission with a request to consider without delay the appeal by Valeria Lutkovskaya,” his office said in a statement late Friday.
Yanukovych also ordered the commission to review a personal appeal for a pardon by Georgy Filipchuk, a former environment minister in the Tymoshenko government who was jailed for three years over abuse of office in 2012.
Lutsenko’s wife Irina said she was pleasantly surprised by the announcement.
“Frankly speaking, I am shocked by such a statement from Valeria Lutkovskaya,” the opposition party Narodna Samooborona (People’s Defence) headed by Lutsenko quoted her as saying.
His lawyer Alexei Baganets said he was inclined to believe that Yanukovych would pardon Lutsenko, who like Tymoshenko was a prominent figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution peaceful uprising.
“I absolutely do not exclude that this request could fulfilled, all the more so because the president himself repeatedly hinted at the possibility of a pardon, taking into account Ukraine’s aspiration to become a fully-fledged member of the European community,” he was quoted as saying.
Yanukovych had in early March promised that he would consider pardoning Lutsenko once the appeal process exhausted.
“I have known Yuriy Lutsenko for a long time and I am sorry for him as a person,” Yanukovych has said.
While Yanukovych’s request raises the prospect that two of Tymoshenko’s jailed allies may be pardoned, there is little indication that Yanukovych’s top nemesis would walk out of prison any time soon.
Tymoshenko, who lost a heated presidential election to Yanukovych in 2010, was jailed for seven years in 2011 for overstepping her authority while prime minister by agreeing a gas deal with Russia.
The imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko has led to a crisis in ties between Kiev and the European Union, which has complained that Ukrainian authorities are selectively prosecuting opponents of the president.