Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he is ready to sign a law to allow jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment, in an effort to clear the way for a landmark agreement with the European Union.
The comments on his official website contained no mention however of pardoning his fiercest rival, which the EU has been pressing for in talks seeking her release.
The 52-year-old former prime minister and defeated presidential candidate was jailed in 2011 for seven years for abuse of office after what the EU said was a political trial that gave the impression of "selective justice".
Her imprisonment threatens to block the 28 November signing of association and free trade agreements between Ukraine and the EU, marking a historic shift towards the west for the former Soviet republic away from Russia.
President Yanukovich told local reporters that work had begun in parliament on a draft law that would allow Ms Tymoshenko to leave the country for medical treatment.
She has been treated for spinal problems by German doctors in a hospital in the northern Ukrainian town of Kharkiv, where she is held under prison guard.
"Naturally, if parliament adopts this law, I will sign it," said Mr Yanukovich.
European envoys have asked Mr Yanukovich to grant her a pardon, as well as allowing her to go to Germany for treatment.
Ms Tymoshenko's daughter said she expected her mother to be in Germany by 19 November under a deal being worked out between the Ukrainian president and the EU.
Her supporters want her to be free to return to the political fray and possibly contest the presidential election next February.
But Mr Yanukovich did not mention any pardon in his latest comments.
He appeared to imply that she would be expected to return to prison in Ukraine after any treatment in Berlin, something that would rule out any political aspirations.