A court on Wednesday rejected a request by prosecutors to arrest former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for disrupting her abuse-of-office trial.
While doing so, Ukrainian Judge Rodion Kireyev agreed with prosecutors that Tymoshenko has disrupted the proceedings but said his court has other methods available to maintain order.
Tymoshenko, the country’s charismatic top opposition leader, has criticized her trial as an attempt by President Viktor Yanukovych to bar her from elections. She has refused, as required, to stand up while addressing the judge, and her supporters have repeatedly disrupted hearings.
Tymoshenko was the central figure in the 2004 mass protests dubbed the Orange Revolution that brought a pro-Western government to power in Ukraine. She became prime minister, but Ukrainians grew frustrated by economic hardships, slow reforms and endless bickering in the Orange camp, and she lost to Kremlin-friendly Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election.
The 50-year-old opposition leader is charged with abusing her powers by signing a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009 that prosecutors claim was disadvantageous for Ukraine. Tymoshenko says the contract ended weeks of natural gas disruptions to Ukrainian and European consumers and that she did not need permission to sign it as the country’s premier.
Many Tymoshenko allies also have faced charges recently, which she describes as part of the government’s efforts to weaken the opposition.
Her former economics minister, who faced corruption allegations over the reconstruction of Kiev’s airport, was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic in January.
A former interior minister has been in jail for six months on charges that he defrauded the government when he paid his driver illegal bonuses.
The United States and the European Union have criticized as political persecution the Tymoshenko trial and other corruption probes involving her and her top allies.
Official Wire and AP