KIEV, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – Lawmakers in Ukraine on Wednesday again delayed consideration of measures to enable jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to travel abroad for medical treatment, possibly dashing prospects for a historic trade deal with the European Union.
The draft law has undergone sustained debate in the ex-Soviet nation's unruly legislature, and its failure is likely to be blamed on pressure from Russia, which has sought to persuade Kiev to join its own Customs Union trade bloc instead of seeking closer ties with the EU.
Tymoshenko, a prominent opposition leader, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for abuse of power over a gas contract with Russia that was determined to be financially unfavorable for Ukraine. She insists that the charges were politically motivated.
Hearings into another corruption case against Tymoshenko have been continuously postponed since last year over chronic back problems suffered by the former prime minister. Foreign medical experts say Tymoshenko needs medical treatment only available outside Ukraine.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said last month that the EU would only be ready to sign a free-trade agreement with Ukraine at a summuit scheduled for late November only if a "suitable solution" was found for the Tymoshenko issue.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last month said he was ready to allow Tymoshenko to leave the country, but said parliament would first need to pass a law allowing prisoners to go abroad if they suffered from conditions that could not be treated by local doctors.
Yanukovych's Party of Regions reacted angrily to Wednesday's failure to pass the law, calling it an attempt by opposition parties to gain political capital by derailing efforts to resolve the Tymoshenko issue.
Party of Regions parliamentary faction leader Alexander Yefremov called on opposition parties to cooperate in ensuring the legislation's passage through the committee stage.
"If you join in with this work, the road to Europe for our state will be open. If you do not, decide between yourselves and tell the whole country what game you're playing," Yefremov said in parliament.
The next parliamentary session is scheduled for November 19.
The EU Easter Partnership Summit, at which Ukraine has been hoping to sign the trade agreement, is scheduled to start in Lithuania on November 28. Preparations for the summit are set to begin in the coming days, possibly making it too late for Ukraine's parliament to approve legislation to secure permission for Tymoshenko to leave the country.