Police in a Kyiv courthouse surrounded Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic former Prime Minister of Ukraine, and escorted her into a law-enforcement vehicle after a judge ordered her arrest.
The judge, Rodion Kireyev, ordered Tymoshenko’s arrest following a motion by prosecutors, who accused the former premier of repeatedly disrupting courtroom proceedings during her trial on abuse of office charges.
The French news agency AFP reports that Tymoshenko was placed in handcuffs just outside the courtroom, after asking officials to ensure she was not seen by onlookers with them on. She was driven away in a police van, surrounded by hundreds of police on foot to keep away her angry supporters.
It is not clear where Tymoshenko is being held or under what conditions.
Tymoshenko is on trial for pushing through deals harmful to Ukraine’s national interests during her second stint as prime minister from 2007-2010. Among other things, she is accused of signing supply contracts with the Russian energy giant Gazprom in 2009, a deal that ultimately cost Ukraine over $210 million in damages.
The charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
The 50-year-old Tymoshenko, who has emerged as Ukraine’s most prominent opposition politician, has steadfastly denied the changes, and has repeatedly disregarded courtroom procedures by refusing to stand up when addressing the judge.
Her supporters have also disrupted court hearings on numerous occasions. Many of her supporters, including national lawmakers from her All-Ukrainian Union party, squabbled with police attempting to remove Tymoshenko from the courtroom, while others protested angrily outside.
WATCH: Clashes broke out between police and supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko after she was arrested for contempt of court.
Tymoshenko rose to international prominence as one of the leading forces behind Ukraine’s democratic Orange Revolution in 2004. The revolution ushered in her then ally Viktor Yushchenko as the country’s first pro-Western president, and led to her first prime ministerial post.
But the two quickly fell out, and she was soon removed from power. She resumed the post in 2007 but narrowly lost a presidential bid in 2010 to rival Viktor Yanukovych, the anti-hero of the Orange Revolution.
Both Tymoshenko and her supporters have criticized the trial, which began in late June, as an attempt by Yanukovych to squeeze her out of politics.
Both the United States and the European Union condemned Tymoshenko’s trial, saying it appeared to be the politically motivated prosecution of an opposition figure.
In the latest such comment, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a message on Twitter that the trial was “an embarrassing spectacle” that did “great damage to a great country.”
written by Daisy Sindelar, with agency reports