EU attacks trial as ex-Ukrainian leader jailed

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years yesterday in a trial widely condemned in the West as politically motivated.

Ms Tymoshenko was also banned from holding government posts for three years after the end of her sentence and fined 1.5 billion hryvna (£121m) .

She remained calm, but did not wait for the judge to finish reading his ruling, standing up from her seat and addressing reporters in the courtroom as he spoke.

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The country’s top opposition leader, she compared her verdict, which she claimed was written by her long-time foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to the horrific purges by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

“The year 1937 has returned to Ukraine with this verdict and all the repression of citizens,” she said, adding she would contest the ruling. “As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary.”

Ms Tymoshenko was found guilty of exceeding her authority during the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. The court ruled she was not authorised to order the contract signed and that the price she agreed to was too high, causing losses to the state budget.

The EU condemned the verdict as politically motivated and urged the Ukrainian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair appeal. A failure to do so would have “profound implications” for Ukraine-EU relations and could jeopardise the conclusion of a landmark association agreement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

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Ms Tymoshenko, 50, was the driving force behind the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned Mr Yanukovych’s fraud-tainted election victory. Mr Yanukovych, however, staged a comeback, narrowly defeating Ms Tymoshenko in a 2010 presidential vote. Ms Tymoshenko maintains the charges are designed to bar her from upcoming elections.

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