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Timoshenko trial shouldn’t spoil Ukraine-EU relations – minister

September 29, 2011, 0:15 UTC+3

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence her to seven years in prison

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KIEV, September 28 (Itar-Tass) -- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko said Wednesday the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko should not influence the preparation and approval of the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.

Grishchenko said so in an interview to the Ukrainian Pravda Internet resource.

“I believe no political considerations should influence the preparations and initialing (approval) of the document,” he said noting that the strategic weight of these two issues cannot be matched in principle.

A report from Brussels said EU is seriously concerned with the prosecutor’s demand that Timoshenko be sentenced to seven years in prison.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton stated on Wednesday that the EU insisted on Ukraine’s being committed to the principle of supremacy of law and demanded full transparency of investigations.

On Wednesday, Kiev’s Pechora district court on Wednesday resumed Timoshenko’s trial.

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 Ukrainian president submitted a bill to Verkhovnaya Rada (parliament) which softens the penalty for economic crimes, which political analysts say 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.

But Timoshenko’s defense said they would attempt to prove that the contracts concluded between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz Ukrainy was standard.

Lawmaker Sergei Vlasenko said the defense had finished an analysis of 23 of 38 contracts Gazprom concluded with other countries.

“We obtained these contracts from confidential sources and as of now we cannot make them public,” Vlasenko said.

“We are working towards securing consent from the companies – with which these contracts were concluded – to declassify these documents in order to show them to the court under certain restrictions,” he stated.

The analysis shows that all the contracts Gazprom concludes are standard, where standard formulae are used.

The only things in which they differ from each other are the countries and company names.

“Therefore, the defense wishes to prove that Ukraine is not an exception on this list, and the contracts concluded by Yulia Timoshenko are identical to the contracts Gazprom signed with other partners,” the lawmaker said.

Timosehnko’s lawyer Yuri Sukhov spoke for some three hours during the arguments of the parties on Wednesday. He asked the court to clear Timoshenko of the charges and set her free.

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