Andrew Osborn

 

 

Chief Russia Correspondent

 

Deputy Bureau Chief Russia/CIS

 

Reuters

 

 

Yulia Tymoshenko says Ukraine trial 'like Stalin's Soviet Union' as she is jailed for 7 years

The Daily Telegraph, 12th October 2011 06:57

By , Moscow

European leaders on Tuesday night warned Ukraine that its decision to sentence former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in jail would have “profound implications” for a country vying to join the European Union.

For her part, Mrs Tymoshenko said the trial would not have been out of place in Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union after the presiding judge, Rodion Kireyev, ruled in a politically-tinged trial that she “criminally” exceeded her powers in 2009.

“The manner in which the trial has been conducted and today’s conviction are an example of the politicisation of the Ukrainian judiciary. Ukraine’s image as a country that is undertaking a fundamental pro-European transformation has been tarnished,” said the Polish foreign ministry, which currently holds the EU presidency.

Baroness Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said the union would “reflect on its policies” towards Kiev.

Punishing her for what amounted to a political rather than a criminal act, Mr Kireyev ruled that Mrs Tymoshenko had illegally concluded a gas deal with Russia that had lost the Ukrainian treasury the equivalent of £121 million and damaged the country’s own gas industry.

“Tymoshenko ... used her official powers to criminal ends and, acting consciously, committed actions which clearly exceeded her rights and powers which had heavy consequences,” Judge Kireyev told the court in Kiev.

He ordered her to pay a fine equivalent to £121 million, barred her from holding office for the next three years and sentenced her to seven years in jail, the exact term that state prosecutors demanded.

Mrs Tymoshenko kept calm but intervened during the reading of the verdict to condemn the proceedings.

“There is not a word of truth in what Kireyev is saying,” she said during a break. “All of this will be rejected, I am certain. But not in the Ukrainian courts.”

Flanked by her daughter, Evgenia, and husband, Olexander, she claimed the case had been dreamt up by the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, to remove her from the political arena and vowed to appeal the verdict.

“The criminal case was fabricated and the judgment was fabricated,” she said.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, said he was bewildered by the sentence. “I do not completely understand why she has been given these seven years,” he said, adding that it was “dangerous and counterproductive to question” the gas deal.

The verdict means the 50-year-old heroine of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution will not be able to run in a parliamentary election next year or a presidential poll in 2015.

The EU said it was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome and promised to reflect on its policies towards Ukraine, while rights groups such as Amnesty International called for her release. A French foreign ministry spokesman said the ruling had confirmed that Mrs Tymoshenko’s prosecution was politically-motivated, while the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said that political show trials had no place in Europe.

Ukraine was close to signing a free-trade agreement with the EU, but that now looks in doubt. Mr Yanukovych said he knew the verdict damaged his country’s chances of moving closer towards Europe but stressed that Mrs Tymoshenko could appeal. “It has made the EU anxious and we understand why,” he said. “(But) this is not the final decision.”

Mrs Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s main opposition leader, has repeatedly accused Mr Yanukovych of suppressing dissent and the media. Since Mr Yanukovych assumed the presidency last year, the press has complained of being stifled and opposition politicians of a politically-motivated witch hunt against them.