Politics in Ukraine over Tymoshenko trial and education reform

September 19, 2011

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(AP/Sergei Chuzavkov)
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko greets supporters outside the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev.

The political field in Ukraine just got less crowded, with the country’s main opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, recently jailed for corruption. However, the case again Tymoshenkso seems to be weakening. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych hinted Friday that he might yield to international pressure and end the trial of the former prime minister by changing Ukraine’s criminal code.

Speaking at a conference in Yalta, Yanukovych distanced himself from Tymoshanko's trial, calling it "very painful." He said he hoped that the criminal code would be "modernized" this year. Political analysts say an overhaul could decriminalize the article under which Ms. Tymoshenko is charged.

Politics have also spilled over into the education arena in Ukraine. Recent education changes appear to favor institutions loyal to current President Yanukovych. Critics say the government is engaged in political opportunism and cronyism.

We get analysis from Ukrainians in government and academia. Marta Farion is an attorney and president of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America, an organization that works to support free and democratic higher education in Ukraine. Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, a professor of Jewish history at Northwestern University, has spent long periods studying and living in Ukraine. Lesya Orobets, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, leads a subcommittee within parliament’s Science and Education committee.