Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko can visit Moscow this week without fear of arrest, but a criminal case against her on bribery charges will not be dropped, Russia’s top prosecutor said today.
Tymoshenko is accused of bribing Russian defence officials while she headed Ukraine’s main gas distributor, and Russian prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for her.
“The case has not been closed and it cannot be closed because the damages our country has suffered are considerable. They total $100m (€77.7m) and have not been compensated for to this day,” said Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.
“The criminal proceedings against her remain in force, she is still on the wanted list,” Ustinov said.
But he reiterated that Tymoshenko’s two-day visit, starting Friday, would be held “in keeping with protocol and international rules” guaranteeing immunity for state leaders.
Tymoshenko denies the Russian charges, saying they are politically-motivated.
Her appointment as prime minister reflected her pivotal role in a wave of opposition protests, dubbed the Orange Revolution, that paved the way to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko’s victory over a Russia-backed rival in last December’s court-ordered presidential election rerun.
Despite two meetings at a presidential level, Russia has struggled to re-establish normal relations with the new government in Ukraine, which has set a course toward integration with Western Europe. Kiev nonetheless remains heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.