Ukrainian Court Delivers Verdict in Tymoshenko Trial

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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A judge in Ukraine has begun reading the verdict in the abuse-of-office trial of former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said Ms. Tymoshenko clearly exceeded her authority in signing a 2009 gas deal with Russia.

Prosecutors in Kyiv are pressing for a seven-year sentence for Ms. Tymoshenko. She is on trial on charges of misuse of power over a gas deal she signed with Russia while she led the government in 2009. Prosecutors say the deal with Russia cost Ukraine a budget loss of almost $200 million.

Ms. Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party has called on thousands of her supporters to rally in front of the main courthouse in Kyiv.

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

The European Union and the United States have both said they believe the trial is politically motivated.

The verdict is expected to have a major impact on Ukraine's aspirations to sign an association agreement with the European Union, a key first step toward gaining EU membership. EU diplomats have 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.

Ms. Tymoshenko is expected to be the main opposition candidate in next year's election, but will not be eligible to run if she is convicted.

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 the 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.