Tymoshenko dogged by enrichment suspicions

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s ex-premier freed as the tide turned against her nemesis, president Viktor Yanukovych, is a steely and telegenic figure hailed by the opposition, but also a polarising one dogged by suspicions of personal enrichment and opportunism.

Tymoshenko dogged by enrichment suspicions

She has ruled out becoming prime minister again but as a close ally of Oleksandr Turchinov she is likely to play an integral role in her country’s future.

After Ukraine’s parliament ordered her release from a seven-year sentence for “abuse of power” she had been serving since 2011, Tymoshenko made it clear she would remain Yanukovych’s arch-foe in word and deed.

“The dictatorship has fallen,” she said in a statement upon her release.

Her supporters viewed her as an alternative to Yanukovych, rallying to her prominent pro-European stance in a country torn between rival allegiances to Moscow and the West.

But for her detractors, Tymoshenko, 53, is an unscrupulous political opportunist with no fixed ideas who became enormously rich in the corruption-stained 1990s and deserved what she got when she was sent to prison.

A slender blonde known for wearing her long hair in an elaborately braided crown, Tymoshenko’s looks belie an unbending temperament that has been compared to that of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher — one of her heroines.

Known at home as the “Iron Lady”, after Thatcher, or simply by the Ukrainian word for “she” — “vona” — Tymoshenko was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution that forced the annulment of elections initially awarded to Yanukovych. She challenged Yanukovych in a bitterly contested 2010 presidential election, losing in a run-off and then finding herself the target of a string of criminal investigations she claimed were aimed at eliminating her from politics.

She was first arrested in August 2011, then sentenced to seven years in October that year on controversial charges of abusing her power in a 2009 gas deal signed with Russia during her premiership.

Her jailing, which Tymoshenko argued was the result of a vendetta pursued by Yanukovych and his “family” of close relatives and oligarchs, prompted anger in the West and a crisis in Ukraine’s relations with the European Union.

Analysts say Tymoshenko remains a political force to be reckoned with, though she may have been surpassed by opposition leaders such as ex heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and ally Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

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