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Ukraine

Ukrainian court keeps Tymoshenko in jail

Reuters/Sergei Svetlitsky

A Ukrainian court on Monday rejected requests to release detained opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. She was arrested on Friday for contempt of court in a trial over alleged abuse of power when she was prime minister.

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Tymoshenko is accused of depriving Ukraine of 190 million euros in 2009 when, as prime minister, she signed a gas delivery deal with Russia. The deal allowed for interrupted gas deliveries to the West to continue.

Tymoshenko’s detention on Friday has raised serious questions in the West over the state of the rule of law in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko-supporting MP Andrei Shevchenko told RFI that his greatest fear is that “this meltdown of democracy in Ukraine might stop negotiations on the association and free trade agreement with the European Union”.

Tymoshenko’s supporters accuse her rival and current President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich, who is pro-Moscow, of putting pressure on the courts. If Tymoshenko is convicted, or even if she receives a suspended sentence, she will be disqualified from running in next year’s parliamentary elections and the presidential election of 2015.

The Kremlin has issued a statement saying that the agreement signed in 2009 between Tymoshenko and then-president Vladimir Putin was legal.

The Kremlin wants to protect itself from any legal incrimination in the future, according to Olga Shumylo-Tapiola, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment in Brussels.

But Shevchenko says that the Kremlin reaction is a way of putting pressure on Ukraine “to get better conditions for the transiting of natural gas to Europe”.

Tymoshenko’s supporters are camping out in one of the main squares of Kiev in protest at her arrest.

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