Ukraine ex-prime minister Tymoshenko goes on trial


Ukraine’s ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Friday went on trial for alleged abuse of power, denouncing her rival President Viktor Yanukovych as a coward fearing political competition.
The former premier, known as the “Iron Lady”, is accused of abuse of power in connection with a contract she signed with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after a brief interruption of gas deliveries from Russia in early 2009. “Yanukovych is a coward. He is afraid of political competition and opposition,” Tymoshenko, wearing a cream-colored suit and sporting her trademark golden braid wrapped around her head, told reporters.
She has earlier described the process as a “kangaroo court” and vendetta orchestrated by the authorities. “Whatever verdict is handed down, it will be a verdict against Yanukovych and not me,” said Tymoshenko as several thousand of her supporters rallied in the streets near the courthouse in central Kiev. Tymoshenko’s family — her businessman husband Olexander, daughter Yevgenia and son-in-law British hard rock musician Sean Carr — turned up near the court in a show of support. The stuffy courtroom was bursting at the seams from the volume of journalists and supporters and scenes of chaos occasionally interrupted the hearing. Some shouted “Shame, shame on the entire Ukraine” demanding a bigger room. When the judge — sweat dripping on his papers — refused to Tymoshenko’s demand to recuse himself, her supporters yelled through a loudspeaker “shame on the judge.”
Scores of police, some wearing anti-riot protective gear, ringed the courthouse. One of the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Tymoshenko narrowly lost to her old rival Yanukovych in presidential elections last year, becoming his fiercest critic. She is now the target of several investigations including for allegedly causing a loss to the former Soviet republic’s budget of 1.5 billion hryvnias ($190 million) when she signed a new energy contract with Putin after a brief interruption of gas deliveries in 2009.
The charges carry a sentence of between seven and 10 years, jeopardising Tymoshenko’s ability to take part in parliamentary polls next year and the next presidential elections in 2015. Tymoshenko, holding a pink rose, entered the courtroom to the cries of “Yulia, Yulia” and applause from her supporters. Known for her penchant for theatrics, she crossed herself before the beginning of the pre-trial hearing and took a copy of the constitution, a small prayer book and an icon out of her handbag, putting them on the desk near her.“This is a farce and circus and not a court hearing,” Tymoshenko told the judge.