Canada, Ukraine's Blooming Ties At Risk: Harper

OTTAWA, Canada -- The Prime Minister warned of "serious consequences" Friday to bilateral relations with Ukraine over Kiev's prosecution of former leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Our government is very concerned about the path the government of Ukraine appears to be taking," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a speech to the Canadian Ukrainian Congress.

"Tuesday's developments may have serious consequences for our bilateral relationship," he added, noting that he wrote to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to express his concerns.

Tymoshenko was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in jail.

A lawyer for the glamorous former leader of the pro-Western Orange Revolution said he would appeal her conviction for abuse of power in a gas deal signed with Russia in 2009.

Prosecutors had argued the gas deal Tymoshenko negotiated was overly advantageous for Moscow and cost the budget billions of dollars.

Tymoshenko has called the charges a vendetta pursued by Yanukovych after he defeated her in presidential elections last year.

Last month, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird decried what he described as Ukraine's "political persecution" of Tymoshenko, and expressed "serious concern about the apparent bias" in the trial.

Canada and Ukraine launched free trade talks in 2009 that hinge on Ukraine's democratic and economic reforms.

Source: AFP