WASHINGTON — Ukraine's upcoming elections have been rigged before they have even begun and the West must act to prevent the demise of its democracy, a jailed opposition leader claimed Thursday.
Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power over a gas deal with Russia she signed when she was prime minister, and is now being prosecuted on fresh charges of embezzlement and tax evasion.
Her supporters insist that the charges as politically motivated and on Thursday her daughter Eugenia held a meeting in Washington to distribute a statement from her mother, he is reportedly seriously ill.
"I ask the democratic world to support the position of the politicians who are urging the world not to deceive itself, not to expect fair conduct of the parliamentary elections from Ukraine's government," the statement said.
"The elections are already rigged even before they have started. We must immediately, before the elections, find the means to break the grip of the dictatorship before the sham elections give it unquestionable control!"
Ukraine's current president, Viktor Yanukovych, narrowly beat Tymoshenko -- his arch enemy since the days of her leadership of the 2004 Orange Revolution pro-democracy movement -- in 2010 presidential polls.
Next month, the former Soviet state holds parliamentary elections.
Tymoshenko's remarks came one day after the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a resolution calling for her release.
Eugenia Tymoshenko told reporters her mother was grateful for the support, but that she feared that "democracy is being killed in Ukraine."
"We see dictatorship is being built on the border of (the) European Union. My mother also believes that only a united action can stop this regime from rigging the elections, from continuing on its way to build up a dictatorship."
In her written remarks, the elder Tymoshenko admitted she had made mistakes as a politician but warned that she could see a dark future for her homeland.
"My country is balanced on a razor-edge. It will either return to European values or cement regional authoritarianism in the post-Soviet space," she wrote.
Asked about her mother's health, Tymoshenko said she was "in serious need for proper treatment by independent doctors" outside the prison, adding that a German doctor had recently warned that she could be permanently disabled.
In August, Ukraine rejected Tymoshenko's appeal against her abuse of power conviction despite threats of that his country could be shunned by the Western powers that view her case as an act of political revenge.
European Union negotiators have made the release of Tymoshenko and her other jailed allies a condition for Ukraine being given preliminary backing to a candidacy for eventual membership in the 27-nation bloc.
But Yanukovych says his Western critics as biased and insists the case as part of a legitimate campaign against corruption.