KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko exceeded her powers when she ordered state energy firm Naftogaz to sign a gas deal with Russia in 2009, judge Rodion Kireyev said as he delivered a verdict at Tymoshenko's trial for alleged abuse-of-office.
State prosecutors accuse Tymoshenko, the main political opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, of illegally forcing through the gas deal and have asked the court to sentence her to seven years in prison.
Kireyev called a brief recess and then resumed reading his verdict.
Before the judge began speaking, Tymoshenko told the court: "You know very well that the sentence is not being pronounced by judge Kireyev but by President Yanukovich.
"Whatever the sentence pronounced, my struggle will continue. This sentence, written by Yanukovich, will not change anything in my life or in my struggle," she said defiantly.
The trial of the charismatic opposition leader, who accuses Yanukovich of carrying out a vendetta against her, has strained ties between the ex-Soviet republic and the West.
The European Union, one of Ukraine's main trading partners along with Russia, has told Yanukovich, who narrowly beat Tymoshenko for the presidency in February 2010, that landmark economic agreements will be in jeopardy if she is jailed.
(Reporting By Pavel Polityuk and Olzhas Auyezov; Writing by Richard Balmforth)