NATO said Thursday it was disappointed by the sentence handed down to Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office over a gas deal with Russia.

Tymoshenko, who once symbolized Western hopes for a democratic Ukraine, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison. She has launched an appeal against the sentence.

The verdict was condemned by the U.S. and European Union as politically motivated.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance was disappointed by the outcome of the trial and hoped a solution could be found "on the basis of the rule of law."

Ukraine abandoned its drive to join NATO after Viktor Yanukovych was elected president last year. But Ukraine remains a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program for nonmembers and has sent troops to serve in NATO-led missions.

Kiev also has an annual national program of cooperation with NATO.

Lungescu said she expected the Tymoshenko case to be taken into account when allies begin assessing that program later this month.

"Democracy, the observance of human rights, and the rule of law are fundamental values for NATO, and they underlie our partnership with Ukraine," she said.