On April 7, the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine executed the presidential decree on pardon and release of former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko and former environmental protection minister Heorhiy Filipchuk.

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle welcomed the decision. They said it was an important step by the Ukrainian authorities in addressing the concerns regarding the matter of selective justice. In this respect, Ashton and Fule also praised the important contribution the European Parliament's monitoring mission to Ukraine headed by ex-president of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former president of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski.

At the same time, the Commission on pardon under the President of Ukraine explained that the decision was based on the need for consistent implementation of the policy of decriminalization and the humanization of the law. Member of the Commission on pardon under the President of Ukraine Olena Lukash stressed that the policy is aimed at bringing Ukrainian legislation in line with the European standards in the protection of human rights and freedoms.

Yuri Lutsenko himself did not thank the President for the release and noted he intended to stay in politics and support candidates from the democratic forces.

ForUm has asked experts about how the release of former interior minister may influence the foreign policy of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Fesenko, political expert, head of the "Penta" political studies center:

- Lutsenko's release means that Ukraine, and President Yanukovych in particular, meets one of the most important requirements for Association agreement signing. Lutsenko was released to prove the progress in solving the problem of selective justice.

Obviously, it is a meaningful step, but it does not mean that the Association agreement is already in the pocket. Ukraine needs to meet other requirements as well, and some of them will hardly be executed, like release of Yulia Tymoshenko, for example. Among European politicians there is a discussion whether to press on Tymoshenko's release and then sign the agreement or to do without.
Moreover, Ukraine needs to adopt a number of laws, which is not possible with blocked parliament. In fact, execution of requirements of the EU will depend on the situation in the Verkhovna Rada.

Myroslav Popovych, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine:

- I think it is not the end, because the main procedure is to release Yulia Tymoshenko. I believe Tymoshenko will be released eventually, and it will enable Ukraine to join the European community. I have no doubts that the population welcomes Lutsenko's release, as people never took seriously the charges against him. As for Tymoshenko, the case is more complicated. However, the authorities created this problem, and it is up to them to solve it. Without adequate solution of this problem Ukraine will not become a member of the European community. No membership - no money. No money - no nothing. And Moscow will not help the President, as they do not like him there.

Volodymyr Paniotto, director of the Kyiv International Sociology Institute:

- We have not held social surveys on Lutsenko's release, but I believe Ukrainians will welcome the news.

I also think that the majority of Ukrainians does not believe Lutsenko's arrest had something to do with a real crime. Other countries will definitely welcome the release and will consider it as a step towards the Association agreement.

Volodymyr Kornilov, political scientist, director of the Ukrainian branch of CIS Institute:

- Well, it is a meaningful event for Ukraine. Lutsenko used to be popular on the political arena, and after imprisonment and release, his rating will go more up. I am sure Lutsenko will become an important figure in the opposition forces and, may be, will bring certain disorder in the state of affairs within the opposition. May be he was released for this purpose only. As for Ukraine's relations with other countries, we see that European officials welcome and praise the decision. However, we should understand that the West considers this decision as a demonstration of good intentions for the future. It is like the situation with terrorists, who release one hostage after another to prove their good will. For Europe, the final goal is Tymoshenko's release, of course.

Mykhailo Pohrebnski, political scientist, director of the Kyiv center for political researches and conflict resolution studies:

- Indeed, Lutsenko is among most popular opposition politicians, but he does not have serious political backup, as his party "Our Ukraine" has dissolved among other parties. Maximum what his release can do is to bring a change in the political landscape within the opposition, meaning many members are not happy with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Lutsenko's position can change the attitude to "Batkivshchyna".

As for foreign policy, Lutsenko's release sends a positive signal, and European officials can use it as an argument for signing the Association agreement with Ukraine. However, we should understand that Lutsenko's release is not the decisive factor. Europe is more concerned about Kyiv's relations with the Kremlin and Customs Union.

Serhiy Taran, political scientist, director of the International institute of democracies (Ukraine):

- Lutsenko's release has eased international relations. Every time the President was meeting some foreign officials, he had to answer questions on selective justice in Ukraine and find justifications.  Now, the problem has been partially removed, and Yanukovych can hold talks in quieter atmosphere. Moreover, Lutsenko's release gives Ukraine a chance to get financial assistance from the West. It will be easier to agree on foreign loans now.

As for the domestic policy, Lutsenko's release will not influence it much. However, opposition's activity may become more dynamic, as Lutsenko is an activist; he has field experience and can organize numerous protest actions.


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