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US Ambassador to Ukraine Asks for Meeting With Jailed Tymoshenko


Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks to the press at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Aug. 5, 2011

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks to the press at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Aug. 5, 2011

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine has asked the country's Foreign Ministry for the opportunity to meet with jailed opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ambassador John Tefft's request for the visit was confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy's press service. The request has been forwarded to the Kyiv court, where Tymoshenko is being tried on charges of abuse of power. So far, the court has not responded.

Tymoshenko was jailed last week after being held in contempt by the trial judge.

The charges against Ms. Tymoshenko stem from a 2009 deal that ended Russia's cutoff of natural gas to Ukraine. Ukrainian prosecutors say she broke the law by not consulting with her government before signing the deal.

The United States has called the former prime minister's arrest politically motivated and has demanded her immediate release.

On Tuesday, four European Union members that once were under the Soviet sphere criticized Ukraine for its handling of the Tymoshenko trial. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia said all Ukrainians are entitled to fair, transparent and independent judicial proceedings.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus sent a personal letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, saying he hopes Tymoshenko's trial will not be used to settle any personal political scores.

The former prime minister is one of about 400 officials under investigation for crimes allegedly committed while in office. Critics say the only cases that have come to trial involve political figures opposed to President Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko rose to fame in 2004 as a leader of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" street protests that forced the Supreme Court to toss out the results of a disputed presidential election in which Yanukovych was initally declared the winner. The two competed in last year's presidential election, which Yanukovych won.

Tymoshenko is expected to be the main opposition candidate in next year's election. She will not be eligible to run if she is convicted.

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