Ukraine opens 'kidnapping' charges against Tymoshenko lawyer

AFP , Wednesday 15 Jan 2014

Pro-European integration supporters are seen in front of a image of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as they attend a rally in Independence square in central Kiev January 7, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Ukrainian prosecutors on Wednesday opened new criminal charges against the lawyer of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, accusing him of "unlawfully imprisoning or kidnapping" his ex-wife.

Tymoshenko's attorney Sergiy Vlasenko has already been charged with assaulting his ex-wife and faces up to two years in prison in a case he claims is politically motivated.

The charges of unlawful imprisonment or kidnapping carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail.

The harsher accusations against Tymoshenko's lawyer came after a court on Friday extended by two months a ban on Vlasenko travelling beyond the capital Kiev and the eastern city of Kharkiv where Tymoshenko is hospitalised under guard.

Vlasenko told AFP on Wednesday that the new charges were "a bolt from the blue," claiming that the authorities wanted to put him in pre-trial detention during the investigation.

Under the new charges, the authorities are legally allowed to place Vlasenko under arrest, he said.

"The only aim is to put me behind bars," he added.

He has denounced the case against him as a "total lie" and "political repression".

"I am only here because I am on Yulia Tymoshenko's defence team," he told reporters earlier this month.

The case against Vlasenko, which relates to alleged domestic violence committed several years ago, was launched in November as Ukraine was deciding whether to sign a historic agreement with the European Union.

President Viktor Yanukovych eventually chose to ditch the EU deal and seek closer relations with Russia in a move that sparked a wave of protests and the former Soviet country's biggest political crisis in a decade.

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