KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko exhorted her country Saturday to "rise up" against President Viktor Yanukovych's party in next month's parliamentary election.
In an emotional video appeal, recorded covertly by her lawyer with a cell phone in a hospital where she is undergoing treatment, Tymoshenko accused Yanukovych of turning Ukraine into a “police state” and her own life into “hell.”
The state prison agency retaliated by publishing a video of Tymoshenko banging her high-heeled shoe against a hospital door in order to be allowed to see her supporters.
The videos offered a rare glimpse into Tymoshenko’s life and state of health behind bars over a year after she was jailed on charges of abusing her office during natural gas import negotiations with Russia in 2009.
In the both videos, apparently shot around the same time, Tymoshenko, her hair combed into a long blond braid, looks pale, but energetic and determined. She is wearing blue jeans, a white shirt and high-heeled shoes and is moving around with the help of walking aids. Tymoshenko is suffering from a herniated disc and has been receiving treatment in a local hospital for months.
The West has condemned Tymoshenko’s imprisonment as politically motivated and the European Union has put on hold a key cooperation deal with Kiev over Tymoshenko’s jailing.
Tymoshenko, 51, the country’s top opposition leader, denies all the charges against her, and accuses Yanukovych of throwing her in jail to bar her from the contesting the Oct. 28 election.
In the video recorded by her lawyer Friday and released Saturday, Tymoshenko urged Ukrainians to support her party in the vote and end what she called Yanukovych’s “criminal” rule.
“Today, unfortunately, the whole country lives under a criminal authority,” Tymoshenko said.
Yanukovych’s Party of Regions hopes to maintain its parliamentary majority, but will struggle to do so in the face of an opposition re-energized by Tymoshenko’s jailing. The next presidential election is in 2015.
Tymoshenko used the video message to complain about her hardship in prison.
“Every day I find myself not only under psychological pressure. Every day here is turned into hell in an absolutely conscious, deliberate way and it is Yanukovych’s direct plan,” Tymoshenko said.
Yanukovych’s office declined to comment on the video.
The state prison agency responded by saying that Tymoshenko’s video was recorded illegally and released its own video, which it says shows her resorting to a “provocation” and behaving inappropriately.
In that video, Tymoshenko takes what appears to be a portable metal detector and bangs it against a hospital door.
“Stop these illegal actions,” a guard says as he confiscates the object.
Tymoshenko then takes off her right shoe and strikes it against the door.
“You are not letting me see the people who have come for me,” Tymoshenko says. “You are breaking the law.”