EU defends gas deal behind Tymoshenko charges

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EU defends gas deal behind Tymoshenko charges

EU defends gas deal behind Tymoshenko charges
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The EU has voiced more concern about the trial of Ukraine’s former prime minister.

Yulia Tymoshenko arrived at court to hear that her request for release from police custody had been turned down. She was detained on Friday for contempt of court.

She is accused of abuse of power by illegally agreeing a gas contract with Russia.

But the EU says the deal helped Europe at a time when gas imports had been blocked.

“This interruption of gas supplies had a very serious effect on several member states. The European Union at the time welcomed the resumption of the supplies that ended the gas crisis of January 2009. That is why this court hearing is very important for us,” said Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, the head of the EU delegation to Ukraine.

Although the protest was largely peaceful, some scuffles were reported between police and demonstrators outside the court. Hundreds of Tymoshenko’s supporters have been camping out. Like her, they argue the case is politically motivated.

“It’s the last stand,” said Tymoshenko supporter Mykola Kostetskyi. “After this there’ll be dictatorship. We can have a regime like in Belarus, or we can live in a democratic country. It’s up to the people.”

Tymoshenko denies charges that as prime minister, she coerced the state energy company into agreeing to a deal with Russia’s Gazprom that was against the national interest.

She went on to lose last year’s presidential election to Viktor Yanukovich.

Despite western concern, the trial does not look likely to endanger aid to Ukraine from the IMF.