Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has pardoned two jailed allies of his key political opponent, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

However, he made no moves to free the opposition leader herself.

In a move apparently intended to appease the European Union, Mr Yanukovych signed a decree pardoning former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko and former ecology minister Heorhiy Filipchuk.

They had both been serving prison terms on abuse-of-office charges.

"Yanukovych signed a decree on pardoning six convicted people, including Ukraine's former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko and Ukraine's former environment minister Heorhiy Filipchuk," his office said in a statement.

Mr Lutsenko was serving a four-year sentence and only last week had his appeal against conviction denied by a court in Kiev.

The EU says the prosecutions of Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence, also for abuse of office, and former members of her government are politically motivated and has made their release a condition for signing landmark deals on trade and political association with Ukraine.

The EU has, in particular, urged Ukraine to show progress in addressing the issue of selective justice, among others, by May, or risk having the deals shelved for years.

Despite today's decree on Mr Lutsenko and Mr Filipchuk, Mr Yanukovych showed no sign of clemency towards Tymoshenko who is his fiercest political opponent and came close to beating him in an election for president in February 2010.

According to the decree, Mr Yanukovych's decision was based on a request by the state ombudsman, the health of the two men and other factors.

State prosecutors said in a separate statement that Mr Lutsenko and Mr Filipchuk were released on Sunday.