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Arguments of parties underway at Timoshenko trial

September 28, 2011, 13:10 UTC+3

Timoshenko is accused of exceeding her authority when signing gas supply contracts with Russia in January 2009

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KIEV, September 28 (Itar-Tass) — Kiev's Pechora district court on Wednesday resumed the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party.

Timoshenko is accused of exceeding her authority when signing gas supply contracts with Russia in January 2009. On Tuesday, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence her to seven years in prison.

"Taking into account the gravity of the crime, its public danger, and the non-payment of damages, the prosecutors for the state requested the court to sentenced Timoshenko to seven years in jail and ban her from taking government jobs related to organization/management and administrative/economic duties for three years," the prosecutor said.

The courtroom is crammed. A number of lawmakers attend the hearing. At present, the arguments of the parties are underway.

Representative of the Naftogaz Ukrainy company Vadim Kunitsky told the court he believed "the fact of causing damages to the state by the former premier is proven."

"She had no right to sign directives or use the Cabinet's seal on her own, without government's approval, she had no right to issue directives to an economic entity," Kunitsky said.

The company filed a civil suit against Timoshenko demanding the payment of 1.5 billion hrivnas (200 million dollars) to Naftogaz Urkainy, as well as 10,000 hrivnas to cover legal expenses.

Next, the defendant's lawyers will take the floor. Timoshenko's defense expects the verdict by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the president submitted a bill to Verkhovnaya Rada (parliament) which softens the penalty for economic crimes. Earlier, presidential administration representative Andrei Portnov said the bill proposes to cancel imprisonment for such offenses.

Instead of jailing, the new legislation envisions fines which will amount to at least the sum for the damage done.

According to Portnov, "immediately after the law comes into effect, the persons who have been under investigation under these articles or already serve their sentences will be set free."

Political analysts say this novelty is meant to mitigate the punishment for Timoshenko under the pressure of western politicians.

Timoshenko has been under arrest since August 5. The trial began on June 24.

Earlier, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko accused her of wrecking gas contracts with Russia in 2009.

Yushchenko said during a testimony at Kiev's Pechora court that Timoshenko had declined Russia’s offer to purchase gas at 250 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters with the transit rate at 1.7 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal case against Timoshenko in April, accusing her of causing a 1.5-billion-hrivna (200 million dollar) damage to the state.

The Ukrainian leadership is seeking to revise the gas contracts with Russia, signed by Timoshenko, by cutting the volume of imported gas and decreasing its price. It also wants to return to the practice of short-term gas supply contracts.

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