Ukraine's prosecutor's office said on Wednesday it had re-opened a 2004 criminal case against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on accusations she had tried to bribe Supreme Court judges.
Tymoshenko, who lost to President Viktor Yanukovych in a bitterly-fought election in February, immediately accused her old foe of conducting "open, undisguised repression" to silence her as an opposition force.
The prosecutor's main investigation section said Tymoshenko had been called in on Wednesday and formally told that the case, which had been prematurely halted in January 2005 without a proper investigation, had been re-opened.
"At the present moment, a pre-trial investigation of the case has been resumed," its statement said.
The legal action comes as Tymoshenko, a populist who wears her hair in a peasant braid, seeks to stir up public opinion against Yanukovych's pro-Russian policies.
Tymoshenko and her followers see an April 21 deal in which Yanukovych extended the stay of the Russian navy in a Ukrainian port until 2042 in exchange for cheaper gas as a sell-out of sovereignty.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is paying an official visit to the ex-Soviet republic on May 17-18 and Tymoshenko's BYuT bloc says it will organise protests if any more agreements are signed which it deems against the national interests.
As she left the prosecutor's office, Tymoshenko told journalists she had been summoned to see investigators again on May 17 and she linked the move to Medvedev's visit.
"Yanukovych wants to demonstrate how he deals with the opposition," she said. "Once again it shows he is ... simply a puppet, ready to do whatever is required to humiliate and bleed Ukraine of its life's blood," she said.
"Yanukovych is now hauling out old cases which will lead nowhere. He is creating open, undisguised repression," she said.
Tymoshenko was in the opposition at the time of the alleged offences and later in 2004 went on to lead, with ex-President Viktor Yushchenko, the "Orange Revolution" street demonstrations that robbed Yanukovych of his first chance of being president.
This is not her first brush with justice officials.
In 2001 she spent some weeks in a Kyiv prison on charges of financial violations relating to her activities in trading in gas imports in the mid-1990s from which she acquired the political nickname, the "Gas Princess".
She was released without trial and she has always said the legal action against her was politically motivated by the then President Leonid Kuchma, Yanukovych's patron.
Last month, Yanukovych's prime minister, Mykola Azarov, charged Tymoshenko's government with the loss of about $378 million, received from selling Ukrainian carbon quotas to Japan.
It said the government had received the money in "foreign ecological investment" but not a single ecological and energy saving project had been realised.
In 2009 Ukraine sold 30 million carbon emission rights to Japan for $375 million and had said it hopes to earn $2 billion or more from the sale of the right to pollute carbon credits that it does not use. Tymoshenko lost narrowly to Yanukovych in a run-off vote in February, but has refused to recognise him as a legitimate leader, alleging election fraud by his camp.
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