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Ukraine leader talks of freeing rival

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, shown in a Kharkiv, Ukraine, prison, has been held for abuse of power.
UKRAYINSKA PRAVDA/AFP/Getty Images
Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, shown in a Kharkiv, Ukraine, prison, has been held for abuse of power.

KIEV — Facing increasing pressure from the West, Ukraine’s president on Thursday suggested a new plan for the release of his main rival, the jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, but the proposal won few cheers from her allies.

Speaking to reporters, Viktor Yanukovych said he would support a Parliament bill allowing Tymoshenko to be released and go to Germany for treatment for back problems.

‘‘Naturally, if Parliament adopts this law, I will sign it,’’ Yanukovych said on a website.

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The comments by Yanukovych were the strongest indication in recent weeks of his willingness to release Tymoshenko before a landmark Ukraine-EU summit in November, but they appeared to fall short of what Tymoshenko and the European Union are pushing for.

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Western nations condemn Tymoshenko’s jailing on abuse of power charges as politically motivated and has been pressuring Yanukovych to free her. The EU has refused to sign an integration agreement with Kiev if Tymoshenko remains in jail. Two EU envoys have recommended that Tymoshenko be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.

Tymoshenko’s allies have said any attempt to send her to Germany in handcuffs without a pardon would be unacceptable.