The judge in former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's abuse of power trial has refused a prosecution motion to arrest her for disrupting the proceedings.
In his decision in the Kyiv court, Judge Rodion Kireyev agreed with prosecutors that Tymoshenko had disrupted and delayed the proceedings while showing disdain for the court. But he dismissed the prosecution's request, saying the court has other methods available to maintain order and arrest should be used only as a last resort.
Tymoshenko, 50, the country's top opposition leader, has denounced the trial as a pre-arranged farce and accused the judge of being a "puppet" of President Viktor Yanukovych, who, she said, is trying to bar her from challenging him politically.
Tymoshenko is charged with abuse of power for signing a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009 that prosecutors claim was disadvantageous for Ukraine.
The United States has criticized the Tymoshenko trial and other corruption probes involving her and her top allies as having "the appearance of politically-motivated prosecutions."
If convicted, Tymoshenko would be barred from running in upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Yanukovych narrowly defeated Tymoshenko in presidential elections last year.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.