Ukraine fails to pass Tymoshenko release bills

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 file photo, an activist of the Ukrainian Opposition Party holds a poster with a photo of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Kiev City council building, during a protest rally demanding a re-election of the city council, in Kiev, Ukraine. More than 20 years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union and painfully searching for its place on the geopolitical map, Ukraine finally has a real chance to firmly align itself with the EU, with its democratic standards and free-market zone. The alternative is to slide back into Russia's shadow, both politically and economically. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov, File)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's parliament on Thursday failed to pass bills that would have enabled the release of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, dealing a harsh blow to this ex-Soviet republic's chances of integration with the European Union.

The West calls Tymoshenko's seven-year sentence for abuse of office politically motivated and has refused to sign a landmark association agreement with Kiev at a summit next week unless she is freed.

But members of President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions on Thursday did not vote in favor of even one of the six bills meant to allow Tymosehnko's release, despite the presence of two top EU envoys, who have been lobbying for a solution for months.

Opposition lawmakers responded with chants of "Shame! Shame!" and urged Yanukovych to pardon Tymoshenko through a presidential decree.

"It is President Viktor Yanukovych who is personally blocking Ukraine's movement toward the European Union," opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament in an emotional speech after the vote failed.

The Thursday vote was an opportunity for Ukraine to fulfill the main EU condition for the deal to be signed. But theoretically Yanukovych still has until right before the summit begins on Nov. 28 to secure Tymoshenko's release either by pardoning her or by having parliament pass the necessary law next week.