EU ‘Deeply Disappointed’ With Tymoshenko Verdict

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 8:35 am (UTC-5)
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The European Union has announced it is “deeply disappointed” by the sentencing of former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to the maximum seven years in prison in connection with charges of abuse-of-office.

Judge Rodion Kireyev handed down the sentence Tuesday in a Kyiv courtroom. He said Ms. Tymoshenko, now an opposition leader, clearly exceeded her authority in signing a 2009 gas deal with Russia, causing a nearly $200-million budget loss for Ukraine.

The former prime minister has repeatedly said she is innocent and says she will appeal the verdict. Ms. Tymoshenko has described the trial as “a political lynching,” aimed at allowing President Viktor Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the trial did not respect international standards and that the verdict could have profound implications for Ukraine's ties with the EU.

EU diplomats had warned that planned bilateral agreements on political association and free trade may never be ratified if Ms. Tymoshenko ends up in jail or is barred from running for office before the 2012 parliamentary election. Both the European Union and the United States have said they believe the trial is politically motivated.

Thousands of Ms. Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party supporters are rallying in front of the main courthouse in Kyiv.

Ms. Tymoshenko was expected to be the main opposition candidate in next year's election, but is not eligible to run if the conviction is upheld.

She is one of some 400 officials under investigation for crimes allegedly committed while in office. Critics have noted that the only cases to come to trial involve political opposition figures.

Ms. Tymoshenko rose to fame in 2004 as a leader of Ukraine's “Orange Revolution” street protests, which forced the Supreme Court to toss out the results of a disputed election won by Mr. Yanukovych. Mr. Yanukovych won the last presidential election in 2010.