Ukraine's Tymoshenko insults judge, demands recess

Ukraine's Tymoshenko insults judge, demands recess

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko insulted the judge and demanded a month-long recess at Monday's trial hearing on charges that she had broken the law and lost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, DPA reported.

Tymoshenko refused to stand up as Judge Rodion Kireyev entered the courtroom, and defied the court after he warned her that she could be charged with contempt.

"I am not going to stand up for a caricature of judge ... for the purposes of a farce," she told a packed courtroom. "When I am on trial in a real court before a real judge, then I will show respect."

Kireyev did not respond directly to Tymoshenko's accusations, but told her, "Don't argue with the court."

She ignored the warning, repeatedly interrupting Kireyev and state lawyers.

Tymoshenko, who was prime minister of Ukraine from 2005-09, has been charged with signing a gas import agreement with Russia without obtaining cabinet approval.

Prosecutors have alleged the deal was highly unfavourable to Ukraine and cost taxpayers between 100-300 million dollars in lost revenues, because of overly high gas prices paid to Russia.

In an apparent attempt to delay proceedings, Tymoshenko on Monday declared that her defence lawyer, Serhy Vlasenko, was absent because he was traveling abroad to collect evidence. His temporary replacement needed a month-long court recess to acquaint himself with her case, she added.

The judge allowed an adjournment until Wednesday.

Outside Kiev's Pechersk city district courthouse, Tymoshenko told reporters she was under 24-hour police surveillance and that government security services had tapped telephones belonging to her and her relatives.

"A police state is being created in Ukraine," she said.

Tymoshenko has alleged that she is the victim of a vendetta pursued by President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies, aimed at forcing her out of politics by convicting her on trumped-up charges.

Yanukovych has said he has no grudge against Tymoshenko, who is his strongest political rival, and that he wants her to have a fair trial.

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