Ukraine Court Orders Arrest Of Ex-Prime Minister Tymoshenko

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 05.08.2011 19:53
Police in a Kyiv courthouse today surrounded Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic former prime minister of Ukraine, and escorted her into a police vehicle after a judge ordered her arrest.
The judge, Rodion Kireyev, ordered Tymoshenko's detention following a motion by prosecutors who accused the former premier of repeatedly disrupting courtroom proceedings during her trial on abuse of office charges.
In court today, she mocked a witness, current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, for speaking in Russian, rather than Ukrainian.
“Judge Kireyev has reiterated many times that the defendant should abide by procedural norms," prosecutor Lilia Frolova told reporters during a court recess shortly before the arrest was made. "She does not react to this. She abuses the right that she has been granted in court. She speaks insulting words directed at the trial participants.”
Also during a recess before the arrest was carried out, Tymoshenko said her questioning of Azarov was the real reason behind the decision to imprison her.
“Because I asked Azarov uncomfortable questions about corruption pertaining to [gas company] RosUkrEnergo, the prosecutor immediately changed my status from that of a travel ban to an arrest warrant,” she said.
The former prime minister is being held in Kyiv’s Lukyanivka prison, where one of her allies, former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, is also being held.
It was not immediately clear how long she will remain there, although her trial is set to resume on August 8.
Faces 10 Years In Prison
Tymoshenko is on trial for pushing through deals harmful to Ukraine's national interests during her second stint as prime minister from 2007-2010. Among other things, she is accused of signing supply contracts with the Russian energy giant Gazprom in 2009, a deal the government of President Viktor Yanukovych claims cost Ukraine over $210 million.
The charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement issued today said the contracts were “concluded in strict accordance with the national legislation of the two states.”
The 50-year-old Tymoshenko, who has emerged as Ukraine's most prominent opposition politician, has steadfastly denied the changes and has repeatedly disregarded courtroom procedures by refusing to stand up when addressing the judge.
Her supporters have also disrupted court hearings on numerous occasions.
Many of her supporters, including national lawmakers from her All-Ukrainian Union party, scuffled with police attempting to remove Tymoshenko from the courtroom, shouting “Shame! Shame!”
Scuffles also ensued outside the courtroom, leaving a number of people bloodied.
Tymoshenko-bloc deputy Serhiy Vlasenko, in the crowd outside the courthouse, showed reporters what he called a handwritten note from Tymoshenko describing her arrest as "political repression."
Removed From Power
Tymoshenko rose to international prominence as one of the leading forces behind Ukraine's democratic Orange Revolution in 2004. The revolution ushered in her then ally Viktor Yushchenko as the country's first pro-Western president, and led to her first prime ministerial post.
But the two quickly fell out, and she was soon removed from power. She resumed the post in 2007, but narrowly lost a presidential bid in 2010 to rival Viktor Yanukovych, the antihero of the Orange Revolution.
Both Tymoshenko and her supporters have criticized the trial, which began in late June, as an attempt by Yanukovych to squeeze her out of politics.
Both the United States and the European Union condemned Tymoshenko's trial, saying it appeared to be the politically motivated prosecution of an opposition figure.
In the latest such comment, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a message on Twitter that the trial was "an embarrassing spectacle" that did "great damage to a great country."
After Tymoshenko's arrest, her party said it would respond by mobilizing supporters and calling street protests.
written by Daisy Sindelar and Richard Solash, with contributions from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and correspondent Irena Chalupa