Ukraine court rejects arrest of ex-PM Tymoshenko

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2011 11:45 AM
Ukraine court rejects arrest of ex-PM Tymoshenko

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian court on Wednesday dismissed a request by state prosecutors to arrest former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is standing trial for alleged abuse of office.

"(The court has ruled) to deny the motion," Judge Rodion Kireyev told the courtroom.

Tymoshenko, the fiercest opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, has dismissed all charges against her as politically motivated and Western governments have expressed concern over her case.

Prosecutors had said Tymoshenko should be taken into custody because she was trying to disrupt the trial. At present she is allowed to stay at her home, but is barred from leaving the capital Kiev.

The prosecution accuses Tymoshenko of illegally forcing state energy firm Naftogaz to sign a gas supply deal with Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom in 2009.

"Yanukovich got too scared to arrest me," Tymoshenko wrote on her Twitter feed after the court ruling.

Kireyev said the court had the means to press ahead with the trial.

Tymoshenko has turned to her most combative style during the trial, refusing to stand up when addressing the court and openly mocking Kireyev, calling him a puppet of Yanukovich's administration.

Police had to expel her supporters from the courtroom a few times, which led to minor scuffles.

"This was the first warning that if Tymoshenko does not calm down she may be arrested," said Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of Penta political think tank.

"But they (the authorities) understand the risks related to arresting her because if they really wanted it, she would have been in jail for a long time now."

Tymoshenko faces a number of other criminal charges related to her two terms as prime minister as well as earlier business activities. She has been accused, in particular, of misusing receipts from the sale of carbon emission permits.

Since Yanukovich assumed the presidency in early 2010, narrowly beating Tymoshenko in a run-off, several former members of Tymoshenko's cabinet have been prosecuted for alleged offences in office and at least one has fled Ukraine.

Western governments and, in particular, the European Union, with which Ukraine is negotiating an association agreement, have expressed concern over Tymoshenko's case and its possible political motivation.

Yanukovich has denied such motives saying his government is simply fighting corruption.

Tymoshenko, 50, won international fame as a leader of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" demonstrations that ultimately doomed Yanukovich's first bid to be president and produced a West-leaning government in a country widely seen as Russia's satellite.

However, the "Orange" coalition quickly fell apart, allowing Yanukovich to win a rematch in early 2010, although Tymoshenko remains one of Ukraine's most popular politicians.

(Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, Editing by Rosalind Russell)