16 August 2012The Ukrainian authorities offered to release opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko for a $7-billion “ransom,” Oleh Rybachuk, former presidential chief of staff, was quoted by the Kommentarii news portal as saying.
Rybachuk, a co-founder of the Justice movement, claimed the “ransom” offer was made by President Viktor Yanukovych during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Yanukovych purportedly accused the former prime minister of stealing $14 billion and offered to release Tymoshenko “at half price.”
“Perhaps no one has said that publicly but I’ve repeatedly heard that from different sources,” Rybachuk said, adding that he had received that information, in particular, from one of Merkel’s advisors.
“Merkel’s advisor told me it took her a long time to come round [after Yanukovych’s offer] and when she did, she stopped saying hello to him,” Rybachuk said.
There has been no official comment from Ukrainian authorities on Rybachuk’s assertions.
Tymoshenko, the opposition heroine of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy “Orange Revolution,” was jailed for seven years in October 2011 for abusing her power by pushing through a gas deal with Russia in 2009, when she was prime minster. Her trial was condemned by Russia and Western governments as politically motivated.