Ukrainian Judge Labelled 'Tool' Of President Viktor Yanukovych

KIEV, Ukraine -- Yuliya Tymoshenko looked uncharacteristically grey and fragile when she offered a weak smile to supporters filing into the cramped courtroom.

Riot police block supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011.

The strains of a month in jail were showing on the blonde firebrand of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, whose prosecution has put democracy in the country in doubt amid international complaints of a "show trial" echoing the Stalin era.

A young judge with only two years' experience will decide Ms Tymoshenko's fate and a verdict could come as early as this week.

Judge Rodion Kireyev clashed with Ms Tymoshenko yesterday when the second of only two defence witnesses permitted by the judge gave evidence.

She addressed Judge Kireyev by his last name, like a teacher scolding a schoolboy, and accused him of being a tool of political repression for President Viktor Yanukovych.

Ms Tymoshenko, 50, refuses to stand for the the judge.

That prompted him to order her detention last month: she is brought by prison van each day from the notorious Lukyanivska jail in Kiev to the central Pechersky District Court.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of abuse of office for signing a deal as prime minister in 2009 that ended a gas war with Russia.

She is charged with accepting "disadvantageous" terms from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Her supporters, many of whom are camping outside the court, call the trial a blatant attempt by the pro-Russian Mr Yanukovych to destroy his charismatic opponent before parliamentary elections next year and his bid for a second presidential term in 2015.

Yesterday, police in riot gear ripped down a protest encampment in Kiev.

EU foreign ministers denounced the case as a show trial at a weekend meeting in Poland, warning it could cost Ukraine a new co-operation agreement.

Russia has criticised the trial and rejected a demand from Ukraine to revise the gas deal.

Some Tymoshenko supporters warned of possibly violent protests against Mr Yanukovych if she is jailed.

"What we have now is a dictatorship and this trial is just because she's his strongest opponent. They will kill her in prison," said Vasily Aponyuk, who travelled from Odessa in southern Ukraine to join the protest.

Ivan Vasilets, who runs a pharmacy, said: "There won't just be people on the streets, there will be blood. It's not just about Tymoshenko, it's about democracy."

Source: The Australian