Ukrainian opposition marches to presidential administration

KIEV, August 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Members of the Ukrainian opposition have left Kiev’s central Independence Square and marched towards the building of the presidential administration.

At a joint opposition rally, Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party first deputy leader Alexander Turchinov urged the crowd to march peacefully to the building of the presidential administration and hand over the rally’s resolution to President Viktor Yanukovich.

“We demand early presidential and parliamentary elections, an early election of the Kiev mayor and the Kiev City Council,” the resolution said.

It also demanded a release of ex-Prime Minister and Batkivshchina leader Yulia Timoshenko, former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko and “other political prisoners”.

Kiev’s Pechersky District Court refused to release Timoshenko after her lawyer Alexander Plakhotnyuk had asked the court to free the ex-premier from custody.

Presiding Judge Rodion Kireyev said on August 22 that there were no new circumstances for making such a decision.

He also refused to give Timoshenko extra time to prepare for testifying in court.

The judge also changed the procedure for examining evidence in court and ruled to examine documents in the case files in the first place, allow petitions related to these documents, summoning of witnesses and additional examinations. After that the court will allow Timoshenko to testify again.

Kireyev also said that Timoshenko’s lawyers’ request for letting her out of prison would be considered at the end of the court session on August 22/

He earlier turned down appeals for releasing Timoshenko several times and refused to replace arrest with recognizance not to leave Kiev or to let her go on bail against guarantees of prominent scientists, cultural figures and the clergy, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ombudsman Nina Karpacheva and opposition MPs.

The former prime minister has been held in an investigation prison since August 5.

Kireyev also rejected lawyers’ request to drop the criminal charges against Timoshenko.

Her defence submitted a petition requesting that a new lawyer, Nikolai Sery, as well as her husband and daughter be allowed to participate in the hearings. The judge upheld the request and adjourned until August 10.

Timoshenko is facing charges of abuse of office while making gas agreements with Russia in 2009.

The prosecution has accused Timoshenko of acting in excess of his powers and giving directives for signing a gas contract with Russia in 2009 without the government’s consent. As a result, gas prices in Ukraine increased, but the tariff for transit, pegged to the price of gas, did not change, which caused damage to the budget in the amount of about 200 million U.S. dollars.

The criminal case was opened against Timoshenko for the gas contracts in accordance with part 3 of Article 365 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which gives the maximum punishment of seven to ten years in prison.

In this case Timoshenko will not be able to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2012 or the presidential election in 2015.

Three criminal cases have been opened against Timoshenko and she has given a written pledge not to leave Kiev.

One concerns the use of part of proceeds from the sale of greenhouse gas quotas, which were intended for certain purposes, for financing national budget expenditures. A total of 380 million euros were misused.

Another criminal case concerns the purchase, against the government’s guarantees, and import into Ukraine of allegedly specialised Opel Combo ambulances. The damage from this transaction is estimated at 67 million hryvnia (over eight million U.S. dollars).

Timoshenko has been charged with misuse of 380 million euros received by Ukraine under the Kyoto Protocol. She may face a prison term of five to ten years. She has been asked to give a written pledge not to leave the city.

Timoshenko claims that the money was used to pay pensions.

On December 20, 2010, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that as prime minister Timoshenko, “acting deliberately and driven by her personal interests,” made the decision to “use a part of the proceeds from the sale of greenhouse emission quotas intended for stated purposes for financing Ukraine’s national budget expenses, primarily pension obligations.”

According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Timoshenko’s decision resulted in a loss of 960,000 hryvnia (121,000 U.S. dollars) in the national budget.

Timoshenko denied the misuse of the funds.

Kireyev adjourned the hearings till 15:00 August 23.

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