Ex-Ukraine PM Tymoshenko goes on trial

Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has gone on trial in a case that has raised concerns in the West over the government’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Ms Tymoshenko, now a top opposition leader, has been charged with abuse of office in signing a deal with Moscow to buy Russian natural gas at prices investigators said were too high.

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She denies the charges and describes them as a political plot by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, to keep her out of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The United States and the European Union have also condemned the probe against Ms Tymoshenko and a number of her top allies.

Yesterday she was greeted by about 1,000 supporters who had gathered outside the court, handing out posters emblazoned “Hands off Tymoshenko!”. Some of her supporters also packed the court room, shouting “Shame!” at a preliminary hearing in the case.

Tymoshenko refused to stand to answer the judge’s questions and demanded he be dismissed.