Ukraine Opposition Leader Tymoshenko Charged With Abuse Of Office

KIEV, Ukraine -- State prosecutors on Tuesday charged former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with abuse of office, as a government campaign against official corruption widened to hit Ukraine's most senior opposition politician.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko (R) embraces a supporter before entering the state prosecutor's office in Kiev May 24, 2011.

Tymoshenko was charged in connection with unlawfully signing a contract with Russia for deliveries of natural gas at artificially high prices, said Yury Boichenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor general's office.

According to the authorities, Tymoshenko exceeded her authority by signing the contract without parliament's consent, costing taxpayers more than 180 million dollars, the Interfax news agency reported.

Tymoshenko entered the prosecutor general's office in the capital Kiev shortly after midday (1000 GMT).

She was not likely to be arrested and would 'probably be released to go home' later in the day, Boichenko said.

Prosecutors first alleged in late 2010 that Tymoshenko broke laws while in office and have since interrogated her repeatedly over allegations of her wrongdoing.

A judge-ordered ban on her movement outside Ukraine was lifted only in April.

Tymoshenko has denied breaking any laws and said she is the victim of a campaign by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies to repress their political opponents.

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

She served as prime minister twice, in 2005 and from 2007-10.

Yanukovych, who lost the Ukrainian presidency in 2004 after Tymoshenko-led protests over fraud, has said his administration is interested only in cracking down on official corruption.

Source: DPA