Factbox: Yulia Tymoshenko's chequered career in Ukraine
June 29, 2011, 3:33 p.m. | Politics
— by Reuters
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko greets her supporters at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Friday,June 24, 2011.Ukraine's former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, went on trial Friday in a case that has raised concerns in the West over the government's commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Tymoshenko, now a top opposition leader, has been charged with abuse of office in signing a deal with Moscow to buy Russian natural gas at prices investigators said were too high. She denies the charges, and describes them as a political plot by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, to keep her out of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Here are some facts about Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, 50, who went on trial on Wednesday charged with abuse of power.
WHO IS YULIA TYMOSHENKO?
- Nicknamed the "gas princess" for her involvement in the gas industry in the 1990s, her striking looks and designer clothes. Born in November 1960, she entered parliament in 1996 and was made a deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector in 2000 by the new premier Viktor Yushchenko.
CHARGES AGAINST TYMOSHENKO
- In 2001, formal charges of forgery and smuggling gas were brought against Tymoshenko while she was head of United Energy Systems, a private gas trading firm in the mid-1990s.
- Then President Leonid Kuchma, her bitter critic, accused her several times of exceeding her powers as deputy prime minister. Tymoshenko denounced the criminal investigations as a witch-hunt, saying her efforts to clean up the corrupt energy sector threatened the interests of powerful businessmen. She spent a month in a detention centre following the investigation, but a court cleared her.
- In May 2010, Ukraine's state prosecutor launched a new criminal case relating to what it said was the misuse by Tymoshenko's government of about $290 million in cash received for selling carbon quotas.
- In the latest trial the prosecution has alleged that Tymoshenko abused her power in the signing of a 2009 gas import agreement with Russia. The prosecution said that, without consulting her government, she coerced the then-head of state-owned Naftogaz to sign the gas deal with Russia's Gazprom. She has denied this.
-- The hearing was adjourned until July 4.
POLITICAL RISE AND FALL
- Her fiery speeches and calls for social justice enthralled vast crowds in the "Orange Revolution" -- weeks of street protests against official results in the 2004 presidential election in which Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was initially declared the winner.
- After Yushchenko won a presidential re-run ordered by the Supreme Court, she was named premier of an "orange" government, but it was riven by infighting. Tymoshenko alarmed investors with calls for a mass review of privatisations and analysts criticised her populist social spending sprees. She fell out with Yushchenko and was sacked in September 2005 after less than eight months in office.
- When Yanukovich became prime minister after a 2006 parliamentary election, she was reconciled with Yushchenko and was the prime force behind his decision to dissolve parliament and call an early election, which gave the "Orange" parties a tiny majority in parliament.
- In Jan. 2009, Tymoshenko brokered a 10-year gas deal with her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to end a three-week energy row that led to supply cuts to Europe.
- However Tymoshenko went on to lose to Yanukovich in a bitter campaign for the presidency in February 2010. In March, she was ousted in a vote of no-confidence and was replaced by new prime minister, Mykola Azarov.
- In a pretrial hearing last week, Tymoshenko used a the opportunity to allege that Yanukovich was behind a crooked court action that was certain to convict her of abuse of power. She complained of political persecution to the European Court of Human Rights ahead of the trial.