Ukrainian court sentences former PM to 7 years
In what was widely seen as a politically orchestrated trial, former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenkohas been sentences to 7 years in prison for her part in a gas deal with Russia that involved irregularities.
Judge Rodion Kireyev handed down the sentence -- the maximum sought by state prosecutors -- at the end of a three-month trial that has polarized society in the ex-Soviet republic and risks undermining Ukraine's relations with the West.
"The court has ... found Tymoshenko guilty... and sentenced her to a prison term of seven years," he said. Her lawyers said they would appeal against the verdict.
The European Union, a major trading partner for Ukraine, immediately denounced the judgment as politically motivated and told President Viktor Yanukovich's leadership that it would boomerang seriously against relations.
"The way the Ukrainian authorities will generally respect universal values and rule of law, and specifically how they will handle these cases, risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on behalf of the bloc.
This included "the conclusion of the Association Agreement, our political dialogue and our cooperation more broadly," the statement issued in Brussels said.
Her supporters say Yanukovich wants to neutralize her as a political force before next year's parliamentary election.
The two politicians have been at each other's throats for most of the past decade. It is unlikely that the feud will end even after Tymoshenko is released from prison.