Tymoshenko vows to fight court verdict
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Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko says she will contest her conviction on abuse of office charges in Europe and accused President Viktor Yanukovych's government of authoritarianism.
"We will fight and defend my good name in the European court.” she said. “We have to be strong and defend Ukraine from this authoritarianism."
A Ukrainian court on Tuesday handed Tymoshenko a seven-year jail sentence and ordered her to pay back nearly 147 million euros to the state energy firm over her role in a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
Amid emotional scenes in the packed court in central Kiev, Judge Rodion Kireyev said the 10 year contract for gas imports from Russia signed in 2009 had sustained heavy losses for Ukraine and was criminally motivated.
Kireyev said by agreeing the contract at terms overly advantageous to Moscow, state gas firm Naftogaz had sustained a loss of 139 million euros.
The European Union swiftly warned that the trial had endangered the chances of signing an Association Agreement with Ukraine, a key goal of President Viktor Yanukovych which would mark a first step towards membership.
One of the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004 and Ukraine's former prime minister, Tymoshenko narrowly lost to her old rival Yanukovych in presidential elections last year, becoming his fiercest critic.
Since coming to power, Yanukovych had sought to confound critics who portrayed him as a pro-Kremlin relic from the USSR by setting EU integration as his main aim and snubbing an offer to join a customs union with Russia.
But EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton warned that a full reassessment of the EU's ties with Kiev could be needed.
"The EU is deeply disappointed with the verdict. The EU will reflect on its policies towards Ukraine," she said.
The Council of Europe also criticised the conviction saying political disputes should not be resolved in court.
"In a democracy, judgement about political decisions should be left to the parliament and to voters, not to courts," the council's Secretary General Thorbjoern Jagland said.
And human rights organisation, Amnesty International, slammed the verdict saying it was “politically motivated” and delivered by a “biased court”.
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