KIEV (AP) — A top lawyer for jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday was charged with beating his ex-wife, a move supporters see as a possible attempt to derail a landmark agreement with the European Union that hinges on her release.
Serhiy Vlasenko, Mrs. Tymoshenko's longtime lawyer and ally, was charged with assaulting his former spouse and was being questioned late in the evening, prosecutor Ruslan Demyanyuk told reporters, according to the Interfax news agency.
An ally of Mrs. Tymoshenko's said earlier that Mr. Vlasenko had texted him that he had been arrested, but then prosecutors said that wasn't the case.
There was no immediate comment from Mr. Vlasenko on the charges, but he previously has denied similar accusations connected to his divorce.
The opposition saw Mr. Vlasenko's questioning as a sign of President Viktor Yanukovych's reluctance to fulfill the EU's demand to free Mrs. Tymoshenko, his archrival — a condition for signing an association agreement with Ukraine, a precursor to eventual EU membership.
Mrs. Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office, insists she is innocent and accuses Mr. Yanukovych of ordering her imprisonment in order to bar her from challenging him in the 2015 presidential election.
Mr. Demyanuk, the prosecutor, was quoted by Interfax as saying that prosecutors likely would ask the court to arrest Mr. Vlasenko, but the prosecutor general's spokeswoman, Margarita Velkova, told The Associated Press that prosecutors already had petitioned for him to be granted bail.
Parliament is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill that would permit Mrs. Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for medical treatment, but Mr. Yanukovych's allies have opposed it. Two top EU envoys are set to deliver a crucial report on the case in Brussels on the same day.
Mr. Yanukovych may hope that the EU will drop its demand for Mrs. Tymoshenko's release out of fear that Ukraine would opt for closer ties with Russia.
Over the weekend, Mr. Yanukovych made a surprise trip to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Recent comments made by Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on the importance of good economic ties with Russia also suggest that Kiev is considering a tilt toward Moscow.
Mr. Yatsenyuk warned that Parliament's reluctance to pass the bill and Mr. Vlasenko's questioning signaled Mr. Yanukovych's readiness to abandon the deal with the EU ahead of a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
"This means a failure of the Vilnius summit. This is the main task that has been put forward," Mr. Yatsenyuk said on his party's website.