Efforts to free former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison appeared to suffer a setback Monday when Ukrainian authorities announced they have opened another criminal investigation against her.
Earlier this month, Tymoshenko _ the country's top opposition leader _ was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of abuse of office in a case the U.S. and the European Union condemned as politically motivated.
Tymoshenko has accused President Viktor Yanukovych, her longtime foe, of masterminding that trial in order to bar her from politics.
The Prosecutor General's office said Monday that it has revived an investigation into Tymoshenko's alleged embezzlement of 25 million hryvna (about $3 million) and evasion of 20 million hryvna (some $2.5 million) in taxes when she headed an energy company some 15 years ago.
She also faces three other corruption probes.
Tymoshenko's top aide, Oleksandr Turchynov, dismissed the latest accusations as untrue and absurd. "This can only be explained by fear and a desire of revenge" of the authorities, Turchynov told reporters.
The fresh investigation dims hopes that Tymoshenko could be released from prison soon after amendments to Ukraine's criminal code that her supporters and Western officials are lobbying for.
Yanukovych has hinted that Tymoshenko could be released if parliament approves the legal changes, which would turn her violation from a criminal offense to a milder economic misdemeanor. But the president indicated last week that any such changes would take time.
Tymoshenko was expected to appeal her abuse of office verdict later Monday.