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"I'm Still Alive" - An Exclusive Interview With Yulia Tymoshenko

In a state hospital after growing ill in jail, the Ukranian opposition leader denounces the "cannibalistic" tactics of those who have condemned her -- and vows to fight on.

Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko
Alexis Rosenzweig

KIEV - Yulia Tymoshenko, the icon of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution who served twice as Prime Minister, is currently under close supervision at a Kiev hospital where she is receiving medical treatement.

She was taken to hospital after international outcry managed to pressure President Viktor Yanukovych into transferring her from the jail she was rotting in – deprived of any kind of medical treatment.

Tymoshenko denies the charges of abuse of power for which she was condemned to a seven-year sentence, as well as new allegations relating to the murder of businessman and lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban. In spite of the constant surveillance to which she is subjected, and unable to receive visitors, Tymoshenko managed to respond to questions posed by Le Temps.

LE TEMPS: How do you explain why your government is harassing you?
YULIA TYMOSHENKO: The relentless, carefully thought-out persecution that my friends in the opposition and I are currently facing is only a small part of the overall strategy pursued by the leaders of the ruling party. It proves that my voice matters: by preventing me from taking part in political life, especially during the last legislative elections in October 2012, the regime is trying to protect itself from any kind of political opposition. The president and his henchmen are perfectly aware that I have what it takes to get the country back in shape and federate those willing to oppose the rise of a dictatorship in Ukraine.

We – those who love freedom – are being censored because we are fighting the regime’s cannibalistic appetite: corrupting and manipulating the law, lying and cheating brazenly.

But I myself am not the main problem, and neither are my fellow All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" party members. The real problem is that the Ukraine, like other post-Soviet states, is slowly relapsing into dictatorship. I believe this situation requires a strong reaction from democratic countries around the world. Fighting relentlessly against this corruption could mark the beginning of the end for the neo-dictators flourishing in our young and fragile democracies.

During the last legislative elections in 2012, your party won 25.5% of the vote – 105 out of 450 seats in parliament. Was it a success, considering how critical you were of the way the election was organized?
Despite massive fraud, this was a very positive result in a country where democratic institutions are threatened. Even if comparisons prove nothing, a quick look at what is happening in our neighboring countries gives us hope on our situation. In Belarus, the opposition has been completely removed from the elections. In Russia, the opposition can only play a minor part. But here in the Ukraine, 70% of the electorate voted against the regime – and bear in mind that these are the official numbers, not taking into account the fraud organized by the authorities!

[rebelmouse-image 27086426 alt="""" original_size="500x333" expand=1]

Photo: European People's Party

It has been eight years since the beginning of the Orange Revolution. What conclusions can you draw?
The Orange Revolution was a crucial moment in the history of independent Ukraine. It defined the Ukraine as a young, post-Soviet country whose inhabitants share the same European values, identity and culture. I am certain that historians will study the Orange Revolution the same way they study Hungarian Uprising of 1956, the Prague Spring or the Solidarity movement in Poland. The path is still long, but the Orange Revolution set my fellow citizens and I in the right direction – that of Europe. This is what matters the most. We realize how important it is to stay true to the goals of the Orange Revolution, and to our ideals. Democratic powers must now unite against the dangers of a dictatorship according to the same principles that led to the Orange Revolution. We are ready – and as for me, I will not rest until that goal is achieved.

Will you be running for president in 2015?
On Dec. 7, 2012, united leaders of the opposition announced that they would support me as their only candidate for the next presidential election. It is a great honor, and a great responsibility. Of course, there are still many obstacles. But I’ve always resisted those who tried to distract me from my goals and dreams for the future of Ukraine. My intentions are crystal clear. The proof is that I’ve never been accused of "corruption" or "personal enrichment."

I was condemned for doing everything in my power – in the government, in the opposition and in prison – so that the population did not feel let down by its leaders, so that Ukraine could become a prosperous, democratic, united and proud country. I hope the European Court of Human Rights, which is set to rule on the legality of my trial, will allow me to be judged not by magistrates under the thumb of a corrupt government, but by the people – who will judge me for my political actions, in free and fair elections. Thanks to international pressure, the support of the Ukrainian diaspora and active democratic forces in our country, the powers in place have failed to destroy me politically. I’m still alive!

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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