Ukraine Charges Jailed Ex-Prime Minister Tymoshenko with Tax Evasion

Posted November 11th, 2011 at 8:40 am (UTC-5)
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Ukraine has charged former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with embezzlement, theft and tax evasion, in the latest round of legal assaults against the jailed opposition leader.

Ukraine's State Tax Administration said Friday that Tymoshenko failed to pay nearly $6 million in taxes when she headed a Ukrainian energy company in the 1990s. It also said that she concealed $165 million in corporate revenue.

Last month, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for exceeding her power as prime minister when she signed a 2009 gas deal with Russia that her opponents say was overly beneficial to Russia.

The 50-year-old Tymoshenko has repeatedly denied the charges and described her trial as “a political lynching,” aimed at allowing President Viktor Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival.

The former prime minister was expected to be the main opposition candidate in a parliamentary election next year, but she is not eligible to run if the conviction is upheld. Her lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict.

The United States, the European Union and several rights groups have condemned the charges as politically motivated.

Last month, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary said they will not support Ukraine's efforts to join the European Union as long as Kyiv keeps Tymoshenko in jail.

President Yanukovych says her conviction could be reclassified as a non-felony pending amendments to Ukraine's criminal code.

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.