Ukraine Is More Western Than You Think: The Trial of Yulia Tymoshenko

On October 11th, Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister and would be President of Ukraine, was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Politicians, analysts, and reporters from Moscow, Russia, to Moscow, Missouri, have condemned her trial as an unjust farce. New York Times reporter Ellen Barry summed up many “western” views of the trial when she wrote that it would “lead Ukraine west, toward Europe, or into a tight symbiosis with the country’s Soviet-era masters in Moscow.” The consensus, of course, was that the guilty verdict has done the latter.

In our piece, Daniel R. Schwartz and I take a different view and argue that, while perhaps isolating the Ukraine politically, the trial itself demonstrates some striking similarities between our legal system and Ukraine’s. To convict Tymoshenko, politically-minded prosecutors cleverly utilized vague parts of the Ukrainian code of laws that were never designed to police her alleged behavior. As regular readers of my columns already know, the utilization of vague laws to convict the innocent is as American as apple pie (or, as it were, as Ukrainian as a nice bowl of Borsch).  


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