MOSCOW, February 22 (RAPSI) – Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed from prison, the Associated Press (AP) reported Saturday, citing her spokeswoman Natalia Lysova.
The Independent reported shortly thereafter, however, that Tymoshenko had not been freed. The Independent report stated: “The Associated Press said Natasha Lysova told reporters on Saturday that Ms Tymoshenko had been released but later said she meant only that the decision was taken by parliament.”
RIA Novosti reported Saturday that Ukraine’s parliament voted to release Tymoshenko from prison. According to the report, the crowd cheered as 322 of the 331 deputies in attendance approved a decree for Tymoshenko’s release.
The news follows closely on the heels of the adoption Friday by the Ukrainian parliament of sweeping amendments to the Criminal Code which carried the potential of clearing the way for her release.
Tymoshenko's attorney Sergey Vlasenko told RIA Novosti Friday: “The acts that resulted in the unlawful sentencing of Yulia [Tymoshenko] are no longer classified as criminal offenses.” He added that as soon as these amendments were enacted Tymoshenko should be released.
The new legislation would amend the Ukrainian Criminal Code in order to implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
Tymoshenko has been serving a seven-year sentence in a penal colony in the city of Kharkov for abuse of power based on a gas deal she signed with Russia in 2009. Since May 2012, she has been undergoing treatment in a local hospital. Tymoshenko was also charged with financial fraud, which is alleged to have taken place when she was head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine in the 1990s. The case was postponed for over a year, due to her poor health.
The parliamentary session was held against the backdrop of mass protests that initially got underway in Ukraine in November. Unrest in Kiev erupted this week anew as thousands of people marched on the parliament building, where a standoff was taking place over proposed constitutional reforms that the opposition said could provide a way out of the political crisis that is paralyzing the country. The violence that ensued resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Fighting between radical anti-government protesters and police has claimed 77 lives, according to the Ukrainian Health Ministry.
Earlier on Friday, Ukrainian Presdient Viktor Yanukovich announced that presidential elections would be held early and called for the creation of a national trust government in the Ukraine.