Tymoshenko Supporters Clash With Police After Judge Refuses to Free Her

Posted August 8th, 2011 at 2:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Riot police in Ukraine have clashed with supporters of detained opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, after a Kyiv court rejected motions to release her.

Thousands of her supporters — waving flags and chanting “Yulia, we are with you” — broke through a police line as officers tried to clear a path for a van to drive Tymoshenko away from the court.

Tymoshenko is accused of overstepping her powers in the process of striking a natural gas deal with Russia while she was prime minister in 2009. Prosecutors say the deal was not advantageous to Ukraine and cost the country $190 million. She denies the charges.

She was taken into custody Friday for contempt of court, after calling the judge in her trial “a monster” and referring to the proceedings as “a farce.” On Monday she refused to stand when the judge entered the courtroom, likening it to kneeling in front of the Mafia. Tymoshenko also told the judge he was not breaking her “but Ukraine's young democracy.”

Tymoshenko says the trial is part of a political vendetta by President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Tymoshenko trial has raised concerns in the West about the rule of law in Ukraine. Tymoshenko is one of about 400 former officials being investigated for crimes committed while in office. But critics say the only cases that have come to trial involve opposition figures. That has led the Obama administration to call on Ukraine to release Tymoshenko, and warn it against targeting government opponents for legal action.