KIEV – Former Ukraine leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been jailed for seven years, according to BBC News. A judge ruled the ex-prime minister had criminally exceeded her powers when she signed a gas deal with Russia in 2009. Tymoshenko said the charges were politically motivated. She vowed to appeal against her sentence and fight for Ukraine “till her last breath”. The EU said it was disappointed with the verdict, and that Kiev’s handling of the case risked deep implications for its hopes of EU integration. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the verdict showed justice was being applied selectively in politically motivated prosecutions. Russia’s foreign ministry also criticised the verdict, saying the ruling had an “obvious anti-Russian subtext”.
Riot police stood outside the court as thousands of supporters and opponents gathered. There have been minor clashes and some arrests.
Judge Rodion Kireyev said the former prime minister would also have to pay back 1.5 bln hrivnas (USD 186 M) lost by the state gas company as a result of the deal. She has also been banned from political office for three years, with implications for her role in next year’s parliamentary elections.
As the verdict was read out, Tymoshenko spoke over the judge, saying she would “fight to defend my honest name”, adding that Ukraine had returned to the repression of Stalin’s 1937 Soviet Union. She said she would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. “We will fight and defend my good name in the European court,” she said. “We have to be strong and defend Ukraine from this authoritarianism.” After the judge finished the verdict, supporters in the courtroom cried “Shame!”
The former Orange Revolution leader was accused of exceeding her authority while negotiating the gas agreement with Russia in 2009, which critics say was to Ukraine’s disadvantage.
Amnesty International slammed the verdict as “politically motivated” and called for the release of Tymoshenko, according to CNN. “The charges against her are not internationally recognizable offenses, they are attempts to criminalize decisions that she made in the course of her work,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia deputy program director of Amnesty International. “Poor political decisions of this kind – if that is what they were – should be punished by voters, not through courts. Her conviction on these charges is illegitimate and she should be immediately released,” Dalhuisen said.