A Ukrainian court has ordered the arrest of country’s former Prime Minister and high-profile opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Around 30 police officers surrounded Tymoshenko’s table and escorted the ex-PM out of the court room.
After the judge voiced his decision, Ukrainian parliamentary deputies who supported Tymoshenko began chanting “Shame on you!” and “Yulia! Yulia!”
They also organized a fight with the police as the law enforcement officers prevented the MPs from leaving the court room.
Police disperse supporters and opponents of Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in front of a court building during her trial in Kiev (AFP Photo / Sergey Svetlitsky)
Tymoshenko’s supporters continued their actions outside the court with opposition MPs organizing a human shield to block the path of the police vehicle carrying their leader along Kiev’s main Khreshchatyk street.
An application to arrest Tymoshenko came from prosecutor Liliya Frolova, who claimed statements made by the politician as well as her behavior disrupted the functioning of the court.
Tymoshenko has criticized the trial, calling it an attempt by President Viktor Yanukovich to bar her from elections. She has also refused to stand up while addressing the judge, repeatedly insulted him and questioned his objectivity.
The hearings were also regularly disrupted by Tymoshenko’s supporters.
Policemen surround a van in which Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was placed to be driven to prison after her arrest (AFP Photo / Valentyn Ogyrenko)
The arrival of Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Nikolay Azarov, on the witness stand became the tipping point which pushed the judge to agree to the arrest.
Azarov said he holds Tymoshenko and her cabinet responsible for the gas crisis of 2009, which saw Russia cutting gas supply to its Ukrainian and European customers.
“The government was, essentially, carrying out the line of breaking the existing gas contracts with Russia and this led to the gas crisis,” he explained.
Tymoshenko, for her part, accused Azarov of corruption during the period when he was in charge of the country’s tax administration. She then demanded a translator.
“I don’t speak Russian. Provide me with an interpreter so that I could understand the Ukrainian prime minister, who can’t speak Ukrainian,” she said.
Azarov replied by saying that Yulia Tymoshenko has never understood him, but that that had nothing to do with language.
Yulia Tymoshenko considered her arrest “reprisal against a political opponent.” In a letter she wrote prior to her arrest, Tymoshenko also stressed that she is not “inclined to commit suicide.”
“I want to make a statement in connection with the realization of the plan to arrest me. Clearly, this is a reprisal against a political opponent, but I’m not about this. I want to say that I have no inclination to commit suicide,” Tymoshenko said.
Tymoshenko’s defense lawyer, Yury Sukhov, is intending to appeal the court’s decision to arrest the former prime minister next Monday.
Despite Sukhov earlier saying that he had obtained permission to visit Tymoshenko to bring her personal belongings, the lawyer was not allowed to meet his client. He entered the Lukyanovsky pre-trial detention facility, but almost immediately left.
“I was not let in,” he said. He added that until the next court hearing Tymoshenko is being left without legal assistance.
“The next hearing is scheduled for Monday at 10 am,” Sukhov said.
Yulia Tymoshenko’s “Batkivschyna” (Fatherland) party has decided to organize an open-ended picketing of the Pechersk district court in Kiev where the ex-prime minister is being tried.
Parliament deputy and former Tymoshenko lawyer Sergey Vlasenko told the Unian news agency that the decision to start the rally was unanimous.
The Ukrainian president’s press secretary has already officially announced that the head of the state, Viktor Yanukovich, has nothing to do with Tymoshenko’s arrest.
“The president has repeatedly said that neither he nor his administration has been meddling in the Tymoshenko’s trial,” said Yanukovich’s press secretary. “The president cannot interfere with judicial affairs. This is stipulated by the constitution.”
Tymoshenko’s arrest worries Europe
The European Parliament’s president, Jerzy Buzek, expressed concern over the arrest of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in a statement which was forwarded to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
“The context and conditions raise concern regarding the political motivation of this decision and the application of the rule of law in Ukraine,” the statement reads.
“Recently, I expressed my concern to Ukraine’s political leadership about the apparent selectivity in the opening of criminal case against Tymoshenko and other former ministers of the previous government.”
Buzek called on Ukraine to “observe the principles and general values that define the relationship between Kiev and Brussels and that are the core of the Eastern Partnership.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement declaring that the 2009 gas deals between Moscow and Kiev were backed by all the necessary instructions from the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and signed in strict accordance with the laws of both countries as well as international law.
The statement added that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko “should be fair and impartial, meet all the requirements of Ukrainian legislation in providing opportunities for protection and respect for basic humanitarian rules and regulations.”
The 50-year-old politician has been in court since June over allegations that she exceeded her powers when she made gas deals with Russia in 2009, during her term as Ukraine’s prime minister.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Fokus.ua website claimed that the outcome of the “gas case” against Tymoshenko has already been decided.
Fokus.ua cites an unnamed source “close to the investigation in the High Council of Justice of Ukraine” as saying that the ex-PM will be sentenced to up to five years in prison before September 6.
Yulia Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution which started in November 2004 and later plunged Ukraine into political chaos when her alliance with Yushchenko broke down.