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