Ukraine's Tymoshenko waves to supporters from jail

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2011 12:16 PM
Ukraine's Tymoshenko waves to supporters from jail

Efforts to free jailed former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko suffered another setback Friday after lawmakers delayed voting on a legal reform that could allow her release.

Tymoshenko, meanwhile, appeared in good spirits, smiling and waving to hundreds of supporters from a prison window in a rare public appearance.

Tymoshenko, the country's top opposition leader, was sentenced to seven years in jail last month on charges of abuse of office in a trial the U.S. and the European Union have condemned as politically motivated. She was found guilty of violating legal procedures while negotiating a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009.

Legislators voted Friday to put off by some two weeks a vote on a draft law that could turn Tymoshenko's crime into a milder economic misdemeanor and allow her release. Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said legislators need more time to prepare for the debate.

Tymoshenko says she's innocent and accuses her rival President Viktor Yanukovych of ordering her imprisonment to bar her from parliamentary elections next year. Her conviction has threatened to derail Ukraine's integration with the EU.

Tymoshenko appeared unbowed Friday, as she greeted several hundred supporters from the window in her first public appearance since her Oct. 11 conviction. Clad in what looked like a white-and-green sweat shirt, she blew kisses and smiled from behind bars, and then briefly addressed the crowd.

"Hold on, my dear ones," Tymoshenko cried out, according to her office. "Thank you for your support. Victory will be ours. Glory to Ukraine."

Tymoshenko's supporters have held several rallies outside her detention center in central Kiev and it was unclear why she was allowed to address them Friday.

Spokeswoman Natasha Lysova said Tymoshenko was meeting with her lawyer and she did not know whether she was seen in her jail cell or a different premise.