KHARKIV, Ukraine - Jailed Ukrainian ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko defied state prosecutors on Tuesday, telling a court that she would refuse to take part in a new trial by video link from her hospital bed.
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year
sentence for abuse of office but has been moved from prison to a
clinic for treatment for a chronic back problem.
Her condition has led to several postponements of a new
trial on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement going back to
the 1990s when she was a prominent businesswoman involved in the
gas trading industry, earning the sobriquet “gas princess”.
When a fresh attempt to resume the trial happened on
Tuesday, with Tymoshenko once again absent, state prosecutors
proposed she take part in proceedings via a video conferencing
link from hospital.
But Tymoshenko replied with a statement from her lawyer,
refusing to cooperate and suggesting that state prosecutors
would seek to exploit any video coverage for their advantage.
“We know that you would carry out unpredictable actions. I
do not agree to take part in a video link,” she said in the
statement read out by lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko.
The statement said attempts to have her take part in court
proceedings by video link were a violation of her rights and
showed “an unwillingness to establish the truth of the case.”
Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky ordered another postponement of
the trial until Aug. 14, saying the break might allow the issue
to be clarified.
German doctors who have been treating Tymoshenko said on
Monday that her physical condition required up to eight more
weeks of attention.
Prosecutors say Tymoshenko’s now-defunct gas trading company
caused losses to the state of about $4 million, while she
personally evaded paying $85,000 in taxes. She denies the tax
evasion and embezzlement charges.
Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovich’s main political
opponent, was jailed last October, convicted of abuse of office
when prime minister, relating to a gas deal which she brokered
The government says the 2009 deal saddled Ukraine with an
unfair price for gas imports which has hamstrung the economy.
Tymoshenko says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich
who defeated her in a presidential election in February 2010.
The European Union has backed her, saying her prosecution
smacks of selective justice, and has shelved landmark deals on
free trade and political association in response to her
Tymoshenko was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution
protests that derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency
and has since been prime minister twice.
Since losing the 2010 election to Yanukovich in a close
run-off, Tymoshenko and a number of her opposition allies have
faced corruption-related charges which she has dismissed as
Even though her imprisonment bars her from running for
election, Tymoshenko symbolically heads a candidate list put
forward by an opposition coalition for a parliamentary election
More than 1,000 supporters and opponents gathered outside
the courtroom in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
“Keep her in prison! She is a thief!” read posters carried
by her detractors. Supporters of Tymoshenko and her
Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party wore T-shirts bearing her
peasant-braided portrait and chanted “Yulia – Freedom!”