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Tymoshenko jailed for seven years

Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been jailed for seven years, a verdict immediately condemned by both the EU and Russia as politically motivated.

Ms Tymoshenko, the driving force of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution and now the top opposition leader, denounced the trial as rigged by president Viktor Yanukovych to get rid of a political opponent.

The case has galvanised the opposition. A crowd of several dozen angry Tymoshenko supporters clashed following the verdict with helmeted riot policed who flooded the city centre.

Judge Rodion Kireyev declared Ms Tymoshenko, 50, guilty of exceeding her authority as premier when she signed a natural gas imports contract with Russia in 2009.

He also banned her from occupying government posts for three years after the completion of her prison term and fined her 1.5 billion hryvna (£120 million) for the damages her actions cost the state.

Ms Tymoshenko, clad in a beige dress and wearing her trademark blonde braid around her head, has called the trial a "lynching." She appeared unfazed by the verdict and began addressing reporters without waiting for the judge to finish reading the lengthy ruling. She will fight the ruling in the European Court of Human Rights and Ukraine appeal courts.

She said Mr Yanukovych wrote the verdict himself and compared it to the show trials and horrific purges by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The EU condemned the verdict as politically driven and urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair appeals process for Ms Tymoshenko. Failure to do so could jeopardise the conclusion of a landmark association agreement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement. That would be a major blow to Mr Yanukovych who has lobbied for membership.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin insisted that the deal he struck with Ms Tymoshenko conformed to both Russian and Ukrainian law. "I don't quite understand why she was sentenced to seven years," he said.

Amnesty International denounced Ms Tymoshenko's conviction as "illegitimate," saying that her trial "casts doubt over the independence of the judiciary."


From Belfast Telegraph