Tymoshenko says October vote 'already rigged'
Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed opponent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, said on Friday a parliamentary election in October would be unfair and called for Western sanctions against the former Soviet republic's leadership.
A Ukrainian court sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years in prison on abuse-of-office charges last October in a case criticised by the West as an example of selective justice, straining Kiev's relations with Brussels and Washington.
Tymoshenko, who has denied any wrongdoing, accused Yanukovich of using the legal system to carry out personal revenge against her.
As a result of the conviction, she cannot run in the October 28 vote in which Yanukovich's Party of the Regions is expected to retain a majority but is closely trailed by a bloc which includes Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party.
"The elections are already rigged even before they have started. We must immediately, before the elections, find the means to break the grip of the dictatorship before sham elections give it unquestioned control," Tymoshenko said in a statement on Friday.
The 51-year-old politician has been receiving treatment for back trouble in a state-run hospital since May while fighting fresh charges of tax evasion and embezzlement in court.
Shortly after her conviction, the European Union shelved landmark deals on political association and free trade with Ukraine. Western politicians have also questioned the fairness of the upcoming poll given her jailing.
In her statement, Tymoshenko urged Western powers to act more aggressively against Yanukovich and his allies.
"The world's democracies should stop offering hospitality to the world's dictators, their families, and their cronies and henchmen," she said. "Why should these people be free to travel anywhere they wish, spend whatever they wish on luxury items, when their citizens are imprisoned and impoverished back home?
"Visa watch lists ought to be developed to keep dictators and the friend of dictators confined to the systems that they have created," she added.
Yanukovich indicated this month he expected international monitors to give a clean bill of health to the election, opening way for the shelved EU agreements to be signed.
But EU officials immediately reminded him of Tymoshenko's case while a senior U.S. diplomat said the vote could be judged as "failed" due to politically-motivated prosecutions, biased media coverage and other issues.
Tymoshenko became Yanukovich's nemesis when she helped lead the 2004 "Orange Revolution" protests which derailed his first bid for the presidency.
She went on to serve twice as prime minister but lost the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close run-off.Soon afterwards, she was charged with abuse of office over a 2009 gas deal with Russia which she had negotiated as prime minister and which, according to Yanukovich's government, saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for energy supplies.
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