Russia Christian News – English version,
William Yoder, Ph.D.
During April and May 2013, virtually all Ukrainian churches – except for the all-powerful «Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate» – signed petitions demanding immediate release of the imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. Vyacheslav Nesteruk, President of Ukraine’s primary Baptist union, was among the church leaders who signed a petition published on 4 May.
Over the past decade, Baptist support for Timoshenko had reached nearly 100%; her pro-Western foreign policy and support of religious pluralism endeared her to the nation’s Protestants. At least four Baptists and a Pentecostal sat in parliament for the «Bloc Yulia Timoshenko». Baptist Alexander (or Oleksandr) Turchinov had been a close associate of Timoshenko since 1993 and served as First Deputy Prime Minister during her final term as the country’s Prime Minister. Former Baptist youth director Pavel Unguryan joined parliament in 2007, specialising in social and family issues. Unguryan cited a simple reason for Baptist support when asked in 2009: «It would be better if Baptists were active in different political parties. But unfortunately, only one political force is willing to accept Baptists. The other parties do not have Baptists and do not want any.»
German journalist Frank Schumann makes several points in his book «Die Gauklerin. Der Fall Timoschenko», released in late 2012. Criminal proceedings opened against Timoshenko in 2001 were shelved when she was named Prime Minister for the first time in 2005. I believe the restart of proceedings against her in May 2010 following her election defeat certainly looks like selective justice – as does the halt of the initial proceedings in 2005. One could claim that the court case was simply put on ice for an interim period because of her time in public office. (Her second term as Prime Minister ran from December 2007 to March 2010.)
Schumann also points out that oligarch Pavlo Lazarenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine 1996-97, was sentenced by a California court in 2006 to nine years in prison for money laundering, extortion and fraud. Yet Timoshenko was sentenced «only» to seven. (Lazarenko was released in November 2012 and remains in the US.) «Wikipedia» claims Lazarenko had «looted» $200 million from Ukrainian state coffers and placed 8th on «Transparency International’s» list of the world’s most corrupt leaders in 2004.
At least until 1999, Lazarenko was a close associate of Yulia Timoshenko. Both belonged to the infamous Dnepropetrovsk clan responsible for the execution of oligarch Yevhen (or Yevgeny) Shcherban and three others on the tarmac of Donetsk airport in November 1996. Shcherban headed the rival Donetsk clan. Both are accused of being co-responsible for Shcherban’s murder and Timoshenko was officially named a suspect in the case this past January.
Available evidence allows one to conclude that Yulia Timoshenko was at least involved in serious financial wrongdoing during the 1990s. The argument used for her release – that she is «no more guilty than others» – is probably true. Yet such «absolution» is far less than moral or legal innocence and no reason to give her one’s vote. Ukrainian Protestants would be well-advised to cloak their support for Timoshenko in great modesty and caution.