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Ex-Ukraine PM maintains innocence in court speech

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Choking back tears, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko insisted on her innocence Thursday during her emotional final speech in an abuse-of-office trial criticised by the West.

The top opposition leader broke with her tradition of refusing to rise when addressing the court, standing up from her seat and turning away from Judge Rodion Kireyev to address the small courtroom, packed with supporters, journalists and foreign diplomats.

She accused her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, of “lynching” her to get rid of a tough political opponent.

“The president of Ukraine considers me a dangerous political opponent — and rightly so,” Tymoshenko said. “I will devote my life to making sure that Ukraine becomes free.”

Clad in an elegant coffee-with-cream dress and jacket, her blond hair wrapped around her head in a trademark braid, she said it was pointless to address the judge, because Yanukovych has already written a guilty verdict.

Tymoshenko, 50, has been charged with exceeding her authority during the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. Prosecutors claim that Tymoshenko had not been officially authorised to approve the deal and believe the price she agreed to was too high.


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