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Ukraine leader ready to let Tymoshenko go abroad

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Thursday he would be ready to sign off on a bill that has been drawn up to allow his jailed opposition rival Yulia Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment.

"Today Ukraine does not have a law which would allow Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment," Yanukovych told reporters in the Donetsk region, his eastern stronghold.

"Naturally if parliament adopts such a bill I will sign it."

Ukraine's single chamber parliament the Verkhovna Rada would have to debate and pass the bill before sending it to the president for his signature.

Yanukovych's comments were the first time he has clearly signalled his willingness to free his political nemesis as Ukraine and the EU prepare for a key summit in Lithuania next month.

The imprisonment of the former prime minister, who suffers from back pain, remains a major obstacle on the country's path to signing a broad political and free trade deal with Brussels at a summit in Vilnius.

Yanukovych is believed to be looking for ways to allow his political rival to leave Ukraine so as not to jeopardise the holding of the key summit without letting her stage a political comeback in the foreseeable future.

The ruling Regions Party is thought to be seeking to rush through parliament legislation that would allow convicts like Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad.

Crucially, even if she is freed, the legislation would still leave her unable to take part in presidential polls in 2015.

Earlier this month special envoys of the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pat Cox, had formally asked Yanukovych to allow Tymoshenko to be taken for treatment abroad.

Tymoshenko was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in jail on abuse of power charges. She has denied the charges, calling them a move by her rival Yanukovych to remove her from politics.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131017/ukraine-leader-ready-let-tymoshenko-go-abroad-0