Imprisoned Tymoshenko makes video appeal

Sep 29, 2012, 9:18 AM EDT
REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko urged her country Saturday to defeat President Viktor Yanukovych's party in next month's parliamentary election.

In an emotional video appeal, Tymoshenko accused Yanukovych of turning Ukraine into a "police state."

Her lawyer says the video, filmed Friday, was recorded by him on a cellphone in a hospital where she is receiving treatment for back pain. It was the first such video since the former prime minister was jailed over a year ago on charges of abusing her office during natural gas import negotiations with Russia in 2009.

The West has condemned her imprisonment as politically motivated and the European Union has put on hold a key cooperation deal with Kiev over Tymoshenko's jailing.

Tymoshenko, 51, the country's top opposition leader, denies all the charges against her, and accuses Yanukovych of throwing her in jail to bar her from the contesting the Oct. 28 election.

In the video, Tymoshenko urges Ukrainians to support her party in the vote and end what she called Yanukovych's "criminal" rule.

"Today, unfortunately, the whole country lives under a criminal authority," said a pale-looking Tymoshenko, wearing a white shirt, her hair combed into a long blond braid.

Yanukovych's Party of Regions hopes to maintain its parliamentary majority, but will struggle to do so in the face of an opposition re-energized by Tymoshenko's jailing. The next presidential election is in 2015.

Yanukovych's office declined to comment on the video.