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Five remain held in Tymoshenko protests; two face charges

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Oct. 11, 2011, 12:09 p.m. |

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seen during her trial, with Judge, Rodion Kireyev, left, reading the indictment at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Oct. 11, 2011 (AP)

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Five protesters arrested during demonstrations against ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's Oct. 11 conviction remained in jail on Wednesday, according to Volodymyr Polishchuk, a spokesman for Kyiv police. Polischuk said two others were released but ordered to appear in court on charges of hooliganism, punishable by a fine or 15 days in imprisonment.

Such was the aftermath of the scuffles that broke out and arrests after a judge convicted Tymoshenko on Tuesday and sentenced her to seven years in prison. At least three people were injured, including one protester who suffered broken ribs and a Berkut police officer who suffered a broken nose in the scuffles. Tymoshenko was taken away to prison about 1 p.m on Tuesday, as more than 1,000 riot control were brought in to control hundreds of angry Tymoshenko supporters who attempted unsuccessfully to prevent authorities from taking her away. Tymoshenko supporters were repelled after they attempted to push a police bus. Her fans shouted "Yulia, we'll take you out!" and "We won't give Yulia to them." Others shouted: "Tymoshenko didn't get seven years in prison, Ukraine did." Her fans also called on the European Court of Human Rights to "free Tymoshenko and jail those who judged her."

Meanwhile, a crowd of anti-Tymosheno demonstrators played the national anthem and blared a pre-recorded harangue of Tymoshenko by Oleh Kalashnikov, a pro-presidential member of parliament -- part of the PR war that's been waged outside the Khreshchatyk Street courtroom since the trial started. Loud music was also blaring, creating what one reporter on the scene called a "madhouse" atmosphere. Activists in both camps spoke with loudspeakers.

But the protesters were clearly outnumbered and overwhelmed by the strong police presence. Officers of the Berkut special operations unit formed a long line along Khreschatyk Street and Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street outside of the Central Department Store in downtown Kyiv and were pushing supporters of Tymoshenko from the road. More than 35 buses filled with police were brought in for the event.

The judge read a summary of the case and his findings for four hours, before ending at 1:10 p.m., with Tymoshenko shouting defiance before she was removed by police.

Tymoshenko is convicted of abusing her authority in a 2009 deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that ended a three-week shutoff that threatened supplies to Europe.

One eyewitness reported that five activists of Femen, the women's rights group that engages in topless protests on social issues, climbed the six-meter high sign on the Central Department Store to protest against politics, with signs that said: "Yu and Ya = same shit." "Yu" stands for Yulia Tymoshenko and "Ya" stands for Viktor Yanukovych. Berkut police went to the department store entrance, which is not far from the court hearing on the same street, and arrested the Femen activists and took them away.

The same eyewitness also reported that Tymosheno's supporters read poems as police officers blocked them in, leaving them only one way to exit, raising concerns about physical safety of the demonstrators.

The protests and confrontations started dissipating about 1:30 p.m., although a strong crowd of Tymoshenko supporters remained. It is not clear whether they will continue their encampment on Khreshchatyk Street, as they have every day since Tymoshenko's Aug. 5 arrest.
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