EU to "reflect" on Ukraine policies following Tymoshenko verdict

The former Ukrainian Prime Minister has been found guilty of exceeding the power of her office in signing a gas import deal in 2009 and sentenced to seven years.

UKRAINE’S FORMER Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted today of abuse of power in signing a gas import contact with Russia in 2009.

The court ruled that she had acted beyond her office in signing the contract and had agreed too high a price.

Sentencing Tymoshenko today, the judge said she would be banned from occupying a government job for three years after her jail term. He also fined her €140 million in damages to the state.

Interupting the lengthy ruling, Tymoshenko stood up in court and compared her verdict with the purges carried out by Stalin:

The year 1937 has returned to Ukraine with this verdict and all the repression of citizens. As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary.

The former leader has accused her long-time rival President Viktor Yanukovych of orchestrating the charges to prevent her from running for office. Tymoshenko was behind the Orange Revolution which in 2004 forced Yanukovych from power. Staging a successful comeback, he beat Tymoshenko in a close-run presidential election last year.

The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton said in a statement today that the “EU is deeply disappointed with the verdict” handed down to Tymoshenko and said that the EU will “reflect on its policies towards Ukraine”:

The way the Ukrainian authorities will generally respect universal values and rule of law, and specifically how they will handle these cases, risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship, including for the conclusion of the Association Agreement, our political dialogue and our co-operation more broadly.

Ashton added that the EU hopes Ukrainian authorities will “ensure a fair, transparent and impartial process” in any appeal involving Tymoshenko or cases involving former members of the government.

The Kyiv Post reports that Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Kostyantyn Gryshchenko responded to the EU statement, saying that Tymoshenko’s case should have no negative impact on EU’s relations with Ukraine and that Ukraine’s “executive branch does not and will not interfere in this [legal] process. The case is in the hands of Ukraine’s judiciary.”

The minister added that Ukrainian officials are “ready to continue dialogue with our partners on all issues of mutual interest”.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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