KIEV, December 13 (Itar-Tass) —— Some 2,000 supporters of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko are assaulting the building of the Kiev Court of Appeal. A gate in the metal fence surrounding the building was broken under their pressure. A unit of the Berkut special task force is restraining the demonstrators. Traffic was actually blocked in h Solomenskaya Street, near the court building.
Sergey Vlasenko, Timoshenko’s lawyer, said that Timoshenko would not be able to attend the court session because of health problems. He specified that the ex-prime minister could not walk on her own.
The Kiev Court of Appeal on Tuesday has begun consideration on the merits of an appeal filed by Ukraine’s former Prime Minister, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party Yulia Timoshenko who in October was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of authority during signing gas contracts with Russia.
The preliminary hearings were held on December 1 without Timoshenko because of the deterioration of her health. Presiding judge Yelena Sitailo decided to hold the hearing without her. The judge also dismissed all motions of Timoshenko’s defence lawyers.
The Tuesday meeting is also held without Timoshenko who is absent for health reasons. Timoshenko’s lawyers filed a motion challenging judge Sitailo, as in the view of the defence, the preliminary consideration of the case by the judge “was non-objective.” Taking part in the court meeting, among others, is Timoshenko’s daughter Yevgeniya. There have been clashes at the approach to the court building between those wishing to get to the courtroom and policemen.
The head of the former prime minister’s defence group, MP Sergei Vlasenko, earlier did not rule out that Timoshenko on Tuesday would be forcibly brought to the Kiev Court of Appeal from the detention facility where she has been kept since August 5. “I feel that the state of health will not allow her to participate in the December 13 court hearing. But I do not rule out that Timoshenko will be brought by force to the appellate court,” Vlasenko said. “Now, I do not rule out anything at all.”
According to the lawyer, “now they are not trying to cure Timoshenko at the detention centre, only removing her pain.” He said that Timoshenko has been “diagnosed with back problems.” “I am not authorised to disclose the diagnosis. I can only say that this ailment is accompanied by constant pain. She has been in this condition for over a month,” said Vlasenko, recalling that “from 5 to 23 November, she actually did not get up.” According to the lawyer, Yulia Timoshenko fears for her life, believing that the government is doing everything for making her die of the ailment.
Timoshenko has now been transferred to a ward of the medical unit of the Kiev detention facility for undergoing the prescribed course of treatment. “Living conditions in the cell, including air temperature, meet the European standards and requirements of national legislation and international standards” the press service of the country’s State Penitentiary Service reported.
Experts believe that the consideration of the appeal filed by the ex-prime minister may take a month, given the large volume of the case. In their opinion, the appeal will be very carefully examined by the court, so that to avoid procedural and any other errors, which would then allow either side to accuse the court of a biased approach.
Western officials have said that the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is an obstacle to Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. The EU has advised Yanukovich to release Timoshenko and give her the opportunity to participate in parliamentary and presidential elections.
The ruling Party of Regions believes that the release of Yulia Timoshenko under the current circumstances will call into question the democratic nature of the government. “Some experts and politicians say that if a populist decision is taken and the courts are instructed to release her no matter how, it would be even worse. Then Ukraine will be accused for being a very undemocratic power that uses not legitimate, but some other tools,” the leader of Party of Regions faction in parliament, Alexander Yefremov, said. “And we are currently trying to enshrine legality.”
The Pechersky district court of Kiev on October 11 sentences the ex-prime minister to 7 years in prison with the prohibition to occupy certain posts for another 3 years for abuse of power during the signing of gas contracts with Russia. Timoshenko has pleaded not guilty, and her defence lawyers consider the prosecution to be political and demand full acquittal of Timoshenko.
Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin earlier said a total of 10 criminal cases were opened against Timoshenko. On December 8, a visiting session of the Shevchenko district court of Kiev satisfied the representation of the investigator of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to apply against Timoshenko, who had already been arrested within the “gas case,” a measure of restraint in the form of arrest within a new criminal case. Timoshenko is charged with attempted major embezzlement of state budget funds, as when she was the president and factual owner of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU) corporation, by prior agreement with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko she tried to impose on the Cabinet of Ministers the private corporation’s obligations before the Russian Ministry of Defence in the amount of 405.5 million US dollars. On November 10, the Main Investigation Department of the State Tax Service also charged the former prime minister with concealment of foreign exchange earnings in excess of 165 million US dollars, embezzlement of budget funds and tax evasion totalling more than 47 million hryvna (about $6 million) by introducing a financial scheme of payments for goods and materials by the UESU corporation, which she once headed, and concealment of income by using offshore companies.