Ukraine's Tymoshenko sentenced to 7 years in jail

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks Tuesday during her trial at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Ukraine. (Efrem Lukatsky ~ Associated Press)

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday on charges of abuse of office in signing a gas deal with Russia, a verdict the European Union and the United States both condemned as politically motivated.

Tymoshenko, the driving force of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution and now the nation's top opposition leader, denounced the trial as rigged by President Viktor Yanukovych to get rid of a political opponent.

The case has galvanized the opposition. A crowd of several dozen angry Tymoshenko supporters clashed following the verdict with helmeted riot police who flooded the city center, but they were quickly pushed away and it was unclear if the protests would last.

Judge Rodion Kireyev declared Tymoshenko, 50, guilty of exceeding her authority as premier when she signed a natural gas imports contract with Russia in 2009. He also banned her from occupying government posts for three years after the completion of her prison term and fined her $190 million for the damages her actions cost the state.

Tymoshenko, clad in a beige dress and wearing her trademark blond braid around her head, has called the trial a "lynching." She appeared unfazed by the verdict and began addressing reporters in the courtroom without waiting for Kireyev to finish reading the lengthy ruling.

She said Yanukovych wrote the verdict himself and compared it to the show trials and horrific purges by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

"The year 1937 has returned to Ukraine with this verdict and all the repression of citizens," she said. "As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary."

"Nobody, not Yanukovych, not Kireyev, can humiliate my honest name. I have worked and will continue to work for Ukraine's sake," Tymoshenko told reporters earlier.

As Kireyev was leaving the courtroom, Tymoshenko's husband Oleksandr yelled out that the judge would someday get a similar verdict. One Tymoshenko supporter shouted "Shame!"

Tymoshenko was taken back to jail in a detention van right after the verdict was announced.

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