KIEV, February 27 (RIA Novosti)
A Ukrainian court on Monday sentenced Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian interior minister and ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, to four years in prison for abuse of office, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
Lutsenko, who was arrested in December 2010, was found guilty of illegally employing and giving an apartment and pension to his former driver as well as of overspending government funds during Police Day celebrations in 2008 and 2009, when he was in office. The total damages caused by Lutsenko to Ukraine’s budget is estimated at $125,000.
The former minister has denied any wrongdoing, saying his trial was politically motivated. The Ukrainian authorities have rejected the allegation.
Prosecutors have demanded that Lutsenko be jailed for four and half years.
Some 50 journalists, as well as diplomats and opposition lawmakers, attended Monday’s session at the Pechersky Court. As the judge read out the verdict, Lutsenko supporters staged a protest outside the court building.
Ukrainian opposition supporters view his prosecution as a continuation of President Victor Yanukovych’s crackdown on his political opponents.
In October last year, the Pechersky Court sentenced Ukraine’s former prime minister and leading opposition figure Tymoshenko to seven years in prison for abusing her authority by pushing through a 2009 gas deal with Russia. Ukraine’s opposition, Western powers and Russia have condemned her trial as politically motivated, a claim Yanukovych has strongly denied.
Tymoshenko, who was one of the leaders of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, moved to the opposition after narrowly losing the 2010 presidential elections to Yanukovych.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.