A lawyer for Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday said he may sue a news agency over publication of a video alleging he had an affair with his defendant.
The three-minute-long black and white video, available on YouTube, features a woman resembling Tymoshenko who is soon joined by a man resembling her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko. The woman begins kissing and cuddling with her visitor. The video has very low resolution; the features of the people could not be identified.
“I’ll study this video," Vlasenko told Kommersant-Ukraina daily. "Most likely, I will [sue the news agency].”
Vlasenko categorically denied having an affair with Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko’s Batkivshina party on Tuesday called the video “fake and bogus,” while the State Penitentiary Service’s first deputy head, Serhiy Sydorenko, described it as “truthful.” A probe may be initiated to establish how the news agency obtained the video, he said.
The Ukrainian opposition leader has been jailed for seven years for abusing her power by pushing through a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She is serving her term in a penal colony in the eastern city of Kharkov. She has maintained her innocence.
On Tuesday, Tymoshenko, who suffers from spinal problems, started a hunger strike after prison guards allegedly beat her in the stomach while taking her to hospital by force. She had filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but it was dismissed as untrue.
Vlasenko said the publication of the video aimed to distract society from this incident.
After visiting Tymoshenko in jail, Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Nina Karpachyova confirmed on Wednesday that she had bruises on her arm, right elbow and the right part of her abdomen, according to opposition politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He said the ombudswoman had demanded that the Prosecutor General’s Office open a criminal investigation into the case.
Sydorenko, however, insisted on Wednesday that “no beating has taken place.” The Penitentiary Service said Tymoshenko refused on Tuesday to be inspected by a medical expert, a claim dismissed by her lawyer.
Meanwhile, Tymoshenko supporters staged a rally in front of the Kharkov prison. Some of them were wearing headbands with words “I am on a hunger strike” inscribed on them. Three lawmakers from Batkivshina’s Lvov regional branch have also declared a hunger strike in support of Tymoshenko, the party website reported.
Andrei Kozhemyakin, an opposition lawmaker, told journalists on Wednesday the prison authorities have threatened to feed Tymoshenko “by force,” the Unian news agency said.
Tymoshenko’s move has triggered concerns from the European People’s Party (EPP), whose faction is the largest in the European Parliament and which Batkivshina is an associate member of. Joseph Daul, the faction leader, has condemned what he described as the escalation of political repressions in Ukraine and said he will push for a delegation of European parliamentarians to go to Ukraine to meet with Tymoshenko.