Ukraine ex-PM ordered not to leave Kiev: Official

Yulia Tymoshenko is under criminal investigation for abuse of power.

Kiev: Ukraine`s ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is under criminal investigation for abuse of power and has been ordered not to leave the Ukrainian capital, the general prosecutor`s office said on Wednesday.

"She is under a pledge not to leave town," spokesman Yury Boichenko said, saying Tymoshenko was being investigated for abuse of power and duties.

The order represented the most serious legal action yet launched against Tymoshenko since she was forced out of her post after the victory of the Kremlin-friendly Viktor Yanukovych in Presidential Elections this year.

Tymoshenko, known for her long braid of golden hair and tight-fitting designer dresses, said earlier that the authorities had opened a criminal probe against her for misspending state money Ukraine received from selling greenhouse emission quotas under the Kyoto Protocol.

"I have just learnt from an investigator that a criminal probe has been started against me personally because ostensibly environmental money during the crisis was spent on pensions," she said.

She added sarcastically the probe had been opened "because I committed a grave crime -- because I paid people pensions when the country was truly in crisis."

She also told reporters she had been questioned by investigators earlier today but formal charges had not yet been brought against her because she was without her lawyer.

Tymoshenko -- one of the champions of the Orange Revolution that brought pro-Western leaders to power in 2005 -- is expected to return for more questioning on Monday.

"I will certainly be with my lawyer," she said in comments posted on her official website, adding that the probe into pensions meant that "these authorities want to go far."

In February, Tymoshenko lost a hard-fought Presidential Election battle to Yanukovych, leading her to step down as prime minister in early March and go into opposition.

Since then she accused Yanukovych of repeated attempts to silence her and sharply criticised his policies, particularly his efforts to build closer relations with Soviet-era master Russia.

A charismatic politician, Tymoshenko is a veteran of Ukraine`s hardball political scene who has experienced run-ins with the law before.

In 2001, she was jailed for several weeks on charges of forgery and natural gas smuggling.