A Ukrainian court on Tuesday jailed the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, for seven years over a 2009 gas deal with Russia, threatening its ambition to agree a first step to joining the European Union.
In acknowledgment of the potentially devastating consequences for Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych insisted that the decision was not final and that he understood the European Union's anxiety over the trial.
Amid emotional scenes in the packed court in central Kiev, judge Rodion Kireyev said Ms. Tymoshenko was guilty of exceeding her authority to force the state gas company to sign a 10-year contract for gas imports from Russia.
“The court rules that Y.V. Tymoshenko intentionally used her powers to criminal ends,” said Judge Kireyev. “The court finds her guilty and sentences her to seven years in prison.”
Ms. Tymoshenko, her hair plaited intricately around her head and wearing an immaculate beige dress, defiantly shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” to her supporters in the court, who proclaimed “Glory to the Heroes!” in response.
“We will fight and defend my good name in the European court. We have to be strong and defend Ukraine from this authoritarianism. Today the court showed that the justice system has been crushed. Fight, be together, be strong.”
She was later driven in a prison van back to the Lukyanovsky detention centre, where she has been held since August 5, to begin serving her sentence.
The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile complained that it saw a “clear anti-Russian subtext” to the case.
The judge said Ms. Tymoshenko sustained a loss to state gas firm Naftogaz of 1.5 billion hryvnia ($190 million) by agreeing the 10-year contract at terms overly advantageous to Moscow and ordered her to pay back the money in full herself.