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April 13, 2005
Russians Play Hardball With Ukraine

In a sign that the Kremlin has not forgotten nor forgiven its diplomatic humiliation from the outcome of the Orange Revolution, it informed the new Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that she still has an outstanding warrant for her arrest in Russia, forcing her to cancel a trip to Ukraine's former close partner:

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's prime minister, has indefinitely delayed her visit to Moscow after threats of arrest.

Miss Tymoshenko, who was part of Viktor Yushchenko's team which took power in the orange revolution [sic] last November, has been told that criminal charges against her are still in force. She had been planning to go to Russia for a two-day state visit, planned for April 15, but the government has been forced to cancel.

Russia's top prosecutor said she is wanted in Russia on charges of bribing military officials while she was head of a gas trading company in the mid-1990s. She denies the charges.

Russia indicted her on these charges last summer, when the political race for the presidency started to heat up -- and roughly the same time that then-opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko got a near-fatal dose of dioxin in his soup. Tymoshenko was outspoken in her opposition to the Kuchma regime and his hand-picked candidate for succession, Viktor Yanukovych. In fact, her opposition was so strident that some wondered if Yuschchenko could pick her for the PM slot without alienating more centrist voters, and without causing problems for Vladimir Putin.

The second question appears to be answered now. Even in normal circumstances when a legitimate indictment exists, government officials traveling on official state business usually have diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution. Waiving that for these mundane charges sends a clear signal that the Kremlin has no appetite for rapprochement on Yushchenko's terms. Not surprisingly, the autocratic Putin has decided to make Ukraine pay for embarrassing him and aligning itself closer to Europe and the US.

In the end, however, it's a futile gesture. All it does is underscore Russian impotence and lack of influence in what used to be its unchallenged sphere of political control -- just a further humiliation for an embattled Vladimir Putin.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 13, 2005 12:52 PM

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» Russia Thinks It's Playing Hardball from Three Knockdown Rule
Putin doesn't seem to have made a realistic assessment yet of how the loss of the Ukraine as a satellite state has affected Russia's influence in Eastern Europe. He would be much better off looking to act conciliatory towards Yushchenko. [Read More]

Tracked on April 13, 2005 5:30 PM

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