Ukraine ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko jailed over gas deal Skip to main content

Ukraine ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko jailed over gas deal

The scene in court as Tymoshenko is led away

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Former Ukraine leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been jailed for seven years.

A judge ruled the ex-prime minister had criminally exceeded her powers when she signed a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

Mrs Tymoshenko said the charges were politically motivated. She vowed to appeal against her sentence and fight for Ukraine "till her last breath".

The EU said it was disappointed with the verdict, and that Kiev's handling of the case risked deep implications for its hopes of EU integration.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the verdict showed justice was being applied selectively in politically motivated prosecutions.

Russia's foreign ministry also criticised the verdict, saying the ruling had an "obvious anti-Russian subtext".

Riot police stood outside the court as thousands of supporters and opponents gathered. There have been minor clashes and some arrests.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said the former prime minister would also have to pay back 1.5bn hrivnas ($186m; £119m) lost by the state gas company as a result of the deal.

At the scene

The courtroom was barely 10 metres by six. The back half was a press pen, with close to 100 reporters and photographers, and TV cameramen standing on benches.

Judge Rodion Kireyev - just 31 years old - stood while he read his decision, taking a short break every half-hour. Behind him on the wall was a Ukrainian crest; and, on a pole reaching to the ceiling, a Ukrainian flag.

In some of the breaks Yulia Tymoshenko addressed the media, asking the public not to be afraid of the Viktor Yanukovych "regime", comparing it to the worst of the Stalin years.

She was accompanied in court by her husband Olexandr Tymoshenko and daughter Evgenia Carr. Everyone else in court was standing, but Yulia Tymoshenko, her husband and daughter remained seated. She and Evgenia sat close together, almost cheek-to-cheek, as one of the most controversial court cases of recent years entered its final moments.

As the judge reached the end of his verdict, Yulia Tymoshenko stood up and spoke over him calling on her followers to "fight on." Then she sat again, paler. Her daughter put her arm around her. The reality of seven years in prison was starting to set in.

She has also been banned from political office for three years, with implications for her role in next year's parliamentary elections.

As the verdict was read out, Mrs Tymoshenko spoke over the judge, saying she would "fight to defend my honest name", adding that Ukraine had returned to the repression of Stalin's 1937 Soviet Union.

She said she would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"We will fight and defend my good name in the European court," she said. "We have to be strong and defend Ukraine from this authoritarianism."

After the judge finished the verdict, supporters in the courtroom cried "Shame!"
'Not very optimistic'
 
The former Orange Revolution leader was accused of exceeding her authority while negotiating the gas agreement with Russia in 2009, which critics say was to Ukraine's disadvantage.

"In January 2009, Tymoshenko... exercising the duties of prime minister... used her powers for criminal ends and, acting deliberately, carried out actions... which led to serious consequences," Judge Kireyev said.

As a result of ordering state gas company Naftohaz to sign an import contract with Russia in 2009 she inflicted damages of 1.5bn hrivnas on the company, he added.

Russia pipes gas to western Europe across Ukrainian territory and relations between the two ex-Soviet states have long been dogged by disputes over transit fees and unpaid bills.

As the verdict was read out over several hours, Mrs Tymoshenko stared at her iPad, apparently not listening to the judge, occasionally exchanging whispers with her daughter, Evgenia Carr.

The gas deal

  • Ten-year contract signed between Ukraine and Russia in January 2009
  • Investigators said Mrs Tymoshenko did not have cabinet approval to sign
  • They say the price Ukraine agreed to pay was too high, damaging state gas company Naftohaz and Ukraine's economy
She has been in custody for contempt of court since 5 August.

Mrs Tymoshenko was the heroine of the Western-leaning Orange Revolution - the sudden street protests that erupted after a fraudulent presidential election in 2004 - and was made prime minister shortly afterwards.

But the next few years saw Ukraine's revolution stagnate, and were marred by bickering between Mrs Tymoshenko and her Orange allies, which paralysed the country just as it was facing a deep economic crisis.

In 2010 the revolution was definitively reversed, when Mr Yanukovych was elected president and Mrs Tymoshenko forced into opposition.

Former president and one-time ally Viktor Yushchenko and others have testified against her in the court case.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15250742

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