Yulia Tymoshenko in 2009. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko released from prison

Ukrainian MPs have voted to oust President Yanukovych and hold early presidential elections on 25 May.

The Ukrainian opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been seen leaving prison in the eastern city of Kharkiv. The BBC reports that one of its correspondents saw Tymoshenko driven away in a car after leaving hospital:


Tymoshenko, who was Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2005 and then again from 2007 to 2010, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 after she was found guilty of abuses of power relating to the activities of the Russian gas company Gazprom in her country. Her imprisonment was widely considered to be political revenge by President Yanukovych, her main rival. As the leader of Ukraine's largest opposition party, the All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland", Tymoshenko's release was one of a number of demands made by opposition activists and protestors.

In the Ukrainian parliament, 328 MPs have voted to impeach Yanukovych, and hold early elections on 25 May. The current whereabouts of the president are unknown, but his spokeswoman has said that he "does not accept" the decision to remove him from power.

Foreign secretary William Hague has indicated that the UK would support a new government in Ukraine. In a statement, he said:

Today I am in close touch with key partners over the extraordinary developments in Ukraine. Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future, and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard.

We will work closely with our EU partners in support of a new government in Ukraine, as and when that is formed. In the meantime it is important that Ukraine's political leaders respond to events calmly and with determination to harness the united efforts of all Ukrainians to work together for a successful future.



Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.