Timoshenko’s defence demand recusal of prosecutors

KIEV, August 10 (Itar-Tass) —— Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party leader Yulia Timoshenko’s lawyer demanded recusal of prosecutors Lilia Frolova and Alexander Mikitenko.

“There must be a fair procedure during the trial, but there is none,” he said at the start of hearings at Kiev’s Pechersky District Court on Wednesday, August 10.

The courtroom was full. MPs, scientists, cultural figures and Orthodox Church clerics came to support the former prime minister. Foreign diplomats, including U.S., Spanish, Lithuanian and British Embassy officials, were present.

Timoshenko looked vigorous and was given a bouquet of white roses from her supporters. Her lawyers Yuri Sukhov and Nikolai Siry, and her husband Alexander were standing by her.

The press service of the Batkivshchina party said more than 10,000 signatures had been collected in support for a petition for changing the measure of restraint for Timoshenko from arrest to recognizance not to live Kiev.

Presiding Judge Rodion Kireyev earlier turned down the lawyers’ appeal for replacing arrest with recognizance not to leave Kiev and refused to bail her out against guarantees of prominent scientists, cultural figures and the clergy, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ombudsman Nina Karpacheva and opposition MPs.

Timoshenko’s lawyer said, “This is not the last appeal and there will be a new series of petitions”.

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

Kireyev earlier 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.

Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko was questioned in court for about three hours. He believes that Timoshenko had no right to issue directives for talks between Naftogaz Ukrainy and Russia’s Gazprom without the consent of the government.

“When it comes to vital needs and interests of the state, the prime minister cannot make decisions alone without collegiate approval as legislation requires,” Grishchenko said.

He and Timoshenko often traded recriminations in the courtroom.

Earlier the court questioned former Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Prodan, who said that Timoshenko had not tried to pass her directives for gas talks with Russia for the government’s decision.

“I took this as an instruction from the prime minister, subject to execution. There was no practice of getting directives approved by the government,” he said.

According to Prodan, the talks in 2009 had produced the best possible price for gas, and the government could not raise tariffs for the transit of Russian natural gas because Russia insisted the rates were fixed until 2011.

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).

Kiev’s district court has confirmed the legitimacy of the criminal case against Timoshenko over gas contracts with Russia made in 2009.

The court rejected Timoshenko’s appeal questioning the legitimacy of the criminal case and confirmed that the Prosecutor General’s Office had acted lawfully by brining criminal charges against her.

Timoshenko was notified on April 13 of a new criminal case opened against her for the gas agreements she had made with Russia in 2009.

Kuzmin said prior to that that new charges of abuse of office when making natural gas supply contracts in 2009 had been brought against Timoshenko.

“The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has opened a criminal case against the ex-premier for abuse of office when making gas contracts in 2009,” he said.

Earlier, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened two criminal cases against Timoshenko and later combined then into one.

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.

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