Passions rode high inside and outside a Kiev courtroom as former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko took the stand against his old orange revolutionary ally Yulia Tymoshenko.
He called for Russian Prime Minister Putin to be summoned as well, a demand the court has already refused, and called Tymoshenko’s 2009 gas deal with Russia, for which she is now standing trial while Moscow looks on in concern, a “knife in the back.”
The crowd went ballistic and pelted his retreating Mercedes with eggs amid cries of “traitor” as he made his departure from the scene of the drama.
Russia is keen to keep the gas deal as it is and maintain the current rate that Ukraine pays for Russian fuel. A Kremlin source denounced Yushchenko’s testimony as “lies.” The rate that Tymoshenko signed up to was a base rate of $450 per 1,000 cubic meters.
“Yushchenko is lying to his court... During his presidential term he personally wanted to gain political dividends and proposed to President Dmitry Medvedev to personally sign a deal settling gas issues... But he was told that the issue was within the competence of the heads of the governments,” the source told RIA Novosti.
“Moreover, in his later telephone conversations with Dmitry Medvedev, Yushchenko said he fully trusted Yulia Tymoshenko, that she had all the necessary powers and that he would support all agreements reached with Russia,” the source added.
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko stormed to power in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, but the two then had a bitter dispute. Yushchenko later called his one-time ally and prime minister his “biggest mistake.”
At the trial Yushchenko rejected Tymoshenko’s claim that he had recalled the Ukrainian delegation from its gas talks with Russia in late 2008. Tymoshenko says that if he had not withdrawn the delegation, which she headed, Russia would not then have cut off of gas supplies to Ukraine.
But Yushchenko said Tymoshenko had refused to accept a more reasonable price [of $250 per 1,000 meters] set by Russia and was later forced to accept the revised Russian terms that dramatically raised the price of gas.
“There was a complete breakdown in the negotiations,” Yushchenko said, AFP reported.
Stab in the back
“Yulia Vladimirovna rejected the proposal of the Prime Minister of Russia,” Yushchenko said. He added that this was for political motives. “To say this was unexpected is an understatement, it was a knife in the back,” he said, Vedomosti reported.
Putin suggested that Ukraine buy Russian gas for $250 per 1,000 cubic meters. “I will quote Putin,” Yushchenko said, “‘I am personally making an offer to the prime minister of Ukraine. Come here, sign the contract for $250 for 1,000 cubic meters, and we will give you the right to export. Now get the hell out of here’…But she refused,” Yushchenko said.
The figure at the center of it all sat stony faced and almost silent throughout proceedings before being shuttled back to her prison cell at the end of proceedings. “Let God be his judge,” she said.
She faces up to ten years in jail if convicted of abuse of power.