Czech Republic to grant asylum to Yulia Tymoshenko’s husband

Oleksandr Tymoshenko, Yulia Tymoshenko, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic will grant political asylum to Oleksandr Tymoshenko, the husband of the jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Mr Tymoshenko reportedly filed his petition at the end of last year with the Czech Interior Ministry which is resolved to comply with the request, according to the foreign minister.

Oleksandr Tymoshenko,  Yulia Tymoshenko,  photo: CTK
Oleksandr Tymoshenko, whose wife Yulia served two terms as the prime minister of Ukraine and was controversially sentenced to seven years in prison in October, will be granted political asylum in the Czech Republic. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told Czech Radio in no uncertain terms on Friday that the Interior Ministry had already agreed to comply.

“Earlier this week, people from the Interior Ministry came to the Foreign Ministry to discuss the issue and its various aspects. It was clear from the talks that the Interior Ministry is resolved to grant the asylum.

“Then I met the minister of interior in the smoking lounge during a break in the government‘s session, and asked him whether this was true, and he said that it was.”

The Czech daily Právo reported that Oleksandr Tymoshenko had links to the Czech Republic, as he is co-owner of a trading firm registered in the northern city of Ústí nad Labem. The Czech Republic has also been one of the most vocal critics of the trial with Yulia Tymoshenko, who last year landed a seven-year prison sentence and a multi-million dollar fine for alleged abuse of power while in office.

Karel Schwarzenberg | Photo: archive of Czech Government
Her husband will be the second high-profile Ukrainian to receive asylum in the country; last year, the Czech authorities granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, the former economy minister in Yulia Tymoshenko’s government. His case sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. But analyst Petr Kratochvíl, from Prague’s Institute of International Relations affiliated with the Czech Foreign Ministry, expects no serious repercussions.

“I think that a serious downgrading of Czech-Ukrainian relations is highly improbable. I think that most likely it will be limited to certain diplomatic moves, such as recalling the Ukrainian ambassador for consultations, or exchanging sharp diplomatic notes.

“But I think it will have no impact on the economy, or such issues as visas or migration in general. Many of these issues are not purely bilateral, and Ukraine’s leaders will think twice before angering the EU.”

For his part, the opposition Social Democrat shadow foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, says his party is not opposed to the decision to grant Mr Tymoshenko asylum in the Czech Republic.

“The issue is between the Interior Ministry and the person who is applying. There are certain conditions that need to be met for asylum to be granted, and if they are met in this case, I have no problem with the possible decision by the Ministry of Interior. It’s a priority now, and I see no other option.”

The Interior Ministry, which deals with the asylum agenda, has refused to comment on the issue.