Mykola Azarov, Ukraine Prime Minister, welcomed on Thursday (7 June) the appointment of two senior European politicians as observers to the appeal proceedings involving Yulia Tymoshenko, the ex-Prime Minister who is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Pat Cox, former European Parliament President, and Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland, were appointed on Wednesday (6 June) to monitor Tymoshenko's court proceedings on behalf of the EU Assembly.

In January, Tymoshenko's defense team appealed against an October 2011 court decision sentencing her to seven years in prison for abusing her authority during the conclusion of gas contracts with Russia in 2009. She has been in jail since.

The hearing of Tymoshenko’s appeal against the decision is scheduled for June 26. Cox and Kwasniewski are expected to arrive in Kyiv already on 11 June “to discuss further collaboration”.

In a statement, Azarov praised the role of European Parliament President Martin Schulz for helping to organise the monitoring by Cox and Kwasniewski. He described the two men as having gained “high reputation and trust among leading political forces in Europe”.

“We are open to impartial monitoring and are confident that the activities of such an authoritative tandem while the cassation process preparation and judicial hearing will allow all parties to be convinced of compliance of legal proceedings in the Tymoshenko case with legal democratic standards, rule of law,” he stated.

EU wants full access to documents

When he announced the appointment of Cox and Kwasniewski, Schulz said they would have full access to all documents relevant to the case as well as lawyers, prosecutors and other officials involved. The EP will provide comprehensive legal and logistical assistance.

On a visit to Brussels on 15 May, Azarov met with Schulz and answered questions from MEPs at a hearing organised by the Socialist and Democrats group. On that occasion, he indicated Ukraine’s readiness to provide full transparency on the appeal process. He also appeared to regret that more efforts had not been made to convince Western public opinion of the fairness of his country’s judiciary.

On 31 May, Ukrainian press announced that the US Democrat Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, had been on a short visit to the country and met with President Viktor Yanukovich. Durbin was quoted as saying that he expected “some decision” on the Tymoshenko case “perhaps as early as 26 June”.

Durbin also announced that the Ukrainian government had contacted the US Skadden law firm in view of performing an independent evaluation of the Tymoshenko case. He also mentioned the name of lawyer Greg Craig, who is the former counsel to US President Barak Obama.

“I do not know exactly what his charge is, what his responsibility is in this case, but I hope that he will take a careful look at it and advise the president of ways that he might use to reconsider the decision of the court,” The US senator was quoted as saying.