Ukraine’s Tymoshenko Jailed for Seven Years By ELLEN BARRY and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ Published: October 11, 2011
KIEV, Ukraine — Yulia V. Tymoshenko
, once one of Ukraine’s most powerful and popular politicians, was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in prison, the culmination of a politically charged trial that could presage the end of the country’s short and often raucous experiment with democracy. The sentence was the maximum demanded by prosecutors on charges that Ms. Tymoshenko had harmed Ukraine’s interests when, as prime minister, she carried out negotiations with Russia in 2009 over the price ofnatural gas. Her supporters and many Western officials have insisted that her actions could hardly have amounted to a crime.
The ruling will likely put a freeze on Ukraine’s integration with Western Europe, which the country’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, has pursued even as he has flirted with the iron-fisted ruling style practiced in Moscow.
“This is an authoritarian regime that is distancing Ukraine from Europe, while using European rhetoric,” Ms. Tymoshenko said in the courtroom. Mr. Yanukovich, she said, “is bringing Ukraine back to 1937,” the height of the Stalinist purges.
In recent weeks, American and Western European diplomats have warned that Ms. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment would make Mr. Yanukovich persona non grata in Western capitals and jeopardize Ukraine’s free trade and association agreement with the European Union, which is near completion.
The European Union immediately issued a message via Twitter saying it was “deeply disappointed with the verdict.”
“The verdict comes after a trial which did not respect the international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process,” Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs chief, said in a later statement. “This unfortunately confirms that justice is being applied selectively in politically motivated prosecutions of the leaders of the opposition and members of the former government.”
She said the verdict would have “profound implications for the E.U.-Ukraine bilateral relationship, including for the conclusion of the Association Agreement.”