Yulia Tymoshenko Attacks Ukraine Judge As 'Puppet Of The President'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yulia Tymoshenko, the darling of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, has denounced a judge trying her on abuse of office charges as a puppet of the country's "Soviet-style" government.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (R) looks on, while her lawyer Sergei Vlasenko wipes beads of sweat, during a pre-trial hearing at a city court in Kiev June 24, 2011.

Calling her trial which began on Friday "a farce," the glamorous former prime minister claimed that she was being politically persecuted by President Viktor Yanukovych who narrowly beat her to the presidency last year.

"Yanukovych is a coward. He is afraid of political competition and opposition," she said, sporting her trademark blonde hair braid and a beige designer suit.

His aim was to remove her from the political arena and he would therefore ensure that she was found guilty, she added.

On trial for allegedly abusing her power as prime minister when she brokered a gas deal with Russia in 2009 that prosecutors claim lost Ukraine the equivalent of £118 million, she denies any wrongdoing.

"The court system has been privatised by Yanukovych and his circle," she said, before telling the presiding judge, Rodion Kireyev, that he should withdraw himself from the case due to his alleged partiality.

"I declare you a puppet of the presidential office," she told him amid a stifling court room in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

The 50-year-old Ukrainian opposition leader shot to global prominence in 2004 when she helped lead the pro-Western Orange Revolution which overturned a fraud-tainted electoral victory by Mr Yanukovych, the current president.

She then served two stints as prime minister in the administration of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

But the two personalities frequently clashed, and though some progress was made, much of their time appeared to be wasted bickering with one other.

An admirer of Baroness Thatcher, Mrs Tymoshenko is also facing two other sets of similar charges.

With parliamentary elections looming next year and a presidential vote in 2015, she believes the aim is to disqualify her from contesting them by having her classified as a convicted felon.

Source: The Telegraph