Tymoshenko’s silence

August 19, 2014 - 12:37:33 am

The once-fiery leader’s silence during the Ukrainian crisis is intriguing. She has to bounce back to prevent erosion of her support base.

The festering unrest in Ukraine has made civilians vulnerable to death and injury, hunger and disease. The sufferings of people in the east of the war-wrecked country have been increasing with continuous shelling by Ukrainian troops to break the will of Russia-backed rebels who are making it difficult for Kiev to break the siege. A humanitarian crisis in the unrest-hit region of the Slavic state has been unfolding, but has been overshadowed by other global events like the upheaval in Iraq and the Gaza war. 

For months now, Ukraine has passed through several phases of the conflict — from the revolt in the Kiev Maidan to the flight of former President Viktor Yanukovich to the takeover of Crimea by Russia. The overthrow of Yanukovich’s authoritarian regime was preceded by an Arabian Spring-type revolt. 

Preceding the political chaos was the much paraded plight of Yulia Tymoshenko. The firebrand leader, who trailed a blaze with her oratory and agitational politics, had taken centre stage when Yanukovich was flexing his muscle and Ukraine was sinking without much of a splash. 

Tymoshenko, the leader of the Orange Revolution, was jailed in 2011 for what Viktor Yanukovich’s government alleged was the misuse of power and overstepping her authority when she was premier. Tymoshenko’s condition in jail had attracted global concern after she alleged mistreatment in custody. The darling of the Orange Revolution alleged beatings by prison guards and photos of her with injuries on the abdomen were circulated on the Internet. As allegations flew between her and the regime of Yanukovich, major western powers called for her immediate release after claiming all along that the prison term awarded to her was a result of political vendetta by the government. 

After her release earlier this year, the blonde leader made an appearance in public, but didn’t get an overwhelming response from the Ukrainian public. She started keeping a relatively low profile. Though a leading candidate in the May presidential elections, Tymoshekno was defeated by chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko, who has led from the front in the war with Russian rebels, and returned some sense of dignity to beleaguered Ukrainian troops. 

But Tymoshenko has remained mysteriously silent during the Ukrainian unrest, which has galvanised the entire West against Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Though the former Ukrainian premier was a sustaining force for pro-western protesters rallying against Yanukovich before he was thrown out, her intriguing absence from public discourse during the unrest has left a question mark on her legacy. The outspoken Tymoshenko has been the antithesis of what she was a few years ago. With her fiery speeches and edgy rhetoric she could work up the masses into a frenzy. Tymoshenko’s popularity may have faded because of many reasons. But she needs to break her silence if she doesn’t want to be misunderstood as someone who fishes in 

troubled waters•

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