Ukraine ex-president testifies against Tymoshenko
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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 21:06
Kiev: Ukraine's former president Viktor Yushchenko gave dramatic testimony on Wednesday against his one-time premier and fellow Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko in her controversial abuse of power trial.

Yushchenko was met by cries of "Shame!" from Tymoshenko's supporters as he entered the court room to give evidence in a trial that could put his former Orange ally behind bars for up to a decade.

Tymoshenko sat stony-faced in the court room and refused to ask questions on principle while Yushchenko quietly recalled a government crisis whose repercussions continue to unsettle Ukrainian politics to this day.

"We have to work on annulling this agreement," Yushchenko said in reference to a 2009 gas deal that Tymoshenko signed with Russia in the midst of a price war that resulted in a temporary cut-off in supplies to Europe.

Tymoshenko -- a flamboyant but divisive figure who now spearheads the opposition -- is accused of signing a bad 10-year deal that the government is now trying to renegotiate amid concerns over Ukraine's economic health.

The trial has seen Ukraine come under intense criticism from EU nations just as the two sides enter talks on a closer commercial union that could see Kiev slip further away from Moscow's influence.

Tymoshenko's main rival Viktor Yanukovych, who succeeded Yushchenko as president, has said he has no right to intervene in the case and brushed aside suggestions that it was a part of a broader political vendetta.

Yushchenko was a close ally of Tymoshenko who appeared at her side during the 2004 Orange Revolution pro-democracy rallies that prevented Yanukovych from seizing power in fraudulent polls.

Yushchenko rewarded the charismatic Tymoshenko for her help during that uprising by appointing her as his prime minister.

But the two had a bitter falling out while serving together in government and Yushchenko was called to testify as a witness for the prosecution.

He arrived accompanied by a bodyguard and soon told the court that he lacked the authority to prevent his prime minister from signing the inter-government agreement with Russia even though it looked like a bad deal.

He said Tymoshenko had refused to accept a more reasonable price set by Russia and was later forced to accept revised Russian terms that dramatically raised the price of gas. "There was a complete breakdown in the negotiations," Yushchenko said.

He added that Tymoshenko had at one stage realised her mistake and attempted to fly to Moscow to sign the initial terms of the Russian deal.


First Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 21:06

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