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EU concerned by pressure on jailed ex-PM's lawyer

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March 5, 2013 06:54 AM EST | AP

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KIEV, Ukraine — Top European Union officials are warning Ukraine against a possible move to strip a lawyer for jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of parliamentary immunity.

The lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, is accusing the authorities of preparing to arrest him in order to deprive Tymoshenko of a qualified attorney. A Kiev court is due to decide Tuesday whether to take away Vlasenko's parliamentary immunity on the grounds that he illegally combines his work as a legislator and an attorney.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele called on Kiev to "avoid creating any perception of misuse of the judiciary for political purposes." Ukraine-EU relations have soured over the Tymoshenko case with Brussels refusing to sign a key cooperation treaty unless Kiev improves its democracy record.