Ukraine's Tymoshenko Expelled From Stormy Trial

KIEV, Ukraine -- The judge in the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday expelled the charismatic Ukrainian ex-prime minister from court after a stormy session that saw scuffles between her supporters and the police.

The former premier known as the "Iron Lady" is accused of abuse of power.

Judge Rodion Kireyev expelled Tymoshenko from the court for the rest of Wednesday's proceedings, saying she had "committed grave violations" of court rules during the hearing, the live broadcast on Ukrainian television showed.

The former prime minister had earlier described him as a "monster".

Tymoshenko, who as usual was immaculately turned out with her golden hair braid and dress suit, is on trial on charges of abuse of power for signing gas contracts in Russia in 2009, in a case which has become a sensation in Ukraine.

The tiny Kiev courtroom was again crammed with reporters on Wednesday and tensions rose as pro-Tymoshenko lawmakers scuffled with police when the judge ordered another supporter, MP Yevgen Suslov, out of the courtroom.

Amid chaotic scenes, a group of police officers stormed into the court to escort him and fellow Tymoshenko supporters when they failed to obey the judges orders, the Interfax news agency reported.

The judge then ordered the accused herself out of the court, drawing cries of "shame" from supporters still present in the room. She was then escorted out the court by the police. The trial continued after a break in the presence of her lawyer.

One of the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Tymoshenko narrowly lost to her old rival Viktor Yanukovych in presidential elections last year and has alleged the trial is a vendetta pursued by the president.

Along with other former allies, Tymoshenko is now the target of several investigations.

In the current trial, she is accused of sustaining a loss to Ukraine's budget of 1.5 billion hryvnias ($190 million) when she signed a new energy contract with Russia after a brief interruption of gas deliveries in 2009.

The charges carry a sentence of between seven and 10 years in prison. But even if she escapes jail, any guilty verdict would disqualify her from parliamentary polls next year and the next presidential elections in 2015.

Tymoshenko, known as Ukraine as the "Iron Lady" after her heroine ex-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher or sometimes as just "Vona" ("She"), was briefly imprisoned in 2001 on forgery charges that were eventually quashed.

Source: AFP