Tymoshenko verdict may damage Ukraine-EU ties
A supporter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko holds her portrait as policemen stand guard outside a court in this file photo. The Ukranian court found Tymoshenko guilty and sentenced her to seven years in prison. AP photo.Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of office in relation to a 2009 gas deal with Russia, a decision which will likely distance Ukraine more from the EU
Ukrainian judge yesterday sentenced former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in jail for abusing her powers in a 2009 gas deal with Russia, a verdict that is set to harm ties with the European Union.
Amid emotional scenes in the packed court, judge Rodion Kireyev said the 10 year contract for gas imports from Russia had sustained heavy losses for Ukraine and ruled that her actions were criminal. “The court rules that Y.V. Tymoshenko intentionally used her powers to criminal ends,” Kireyev said in his judgement
The court finds her guilty and sentences her to seven years in prison.” EU officials have warned that a conviction would severely jeopardize Ukraine’s hopes of signing an association agreement with the European Union this year which would be a first step towards its goal of joining the bloc.
The U.S. and the EU have condemned the trial as politically motivated, and Tymoshenko has dismissed the trial as persecution ordered by her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to bar her from politics. The case has galvanized her supporters, who regularly held rowdy protests inside and outside the courthouse.
Hundreds of Tymoshenko supporters gathered outside the court in central Kiev in a tense standoff with security forces as the verdict was read out. “Freedom for Yulia!” and “Down with the bandits!” were among the slogans shouted by the demonstrators who also put up tents outside the court in a sign they had no intention of moving away in a hurry.
‘We have to defend Ukraine from authoritarianism’
“We will fight and defend my good name in the European court,” Tymoshenko said. “We have to be strong and defend Ukraine from this authoritarianism.” Kireyev said Tymoshenko sustained a loss to state gas firm Naftogaz of 190 million by agreeing the 10 year contract.
“Y.V. Tymoshenko... used her official powers to criminal ends and, acting consciously, committed actions which clearly exceeded her rights and powers which had heavy consequences,” Kireyev said. He also ruled that Tymoshenko would herself have to pay back the losses sustained. The European Commission meanwhile said yesterday it was deeply disappointed by the sentencing of Tymoshenko to seven years in prison and said it could have profound implications for relations with the bloc. A statement from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the trial confirmed that justice was being applied selectively in Ukraine in politically motivated prosecutions of opposition leaders and members of the former government.
Compiled from Reuters, AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.