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Ukrainian parliament to consider 'Tymoshenko bills' on Wednesday

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The Ukrainian parliament will consider a series of amendments to the country's Criminal Code that would allow ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to avoid imprisonment, the Supreme Rada speaker said on Monday.

The Ukrainian parliament will consider a series of amendments to the country's Criminal Code that would allow ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to avoid imprisonment, the Supreme Rada speaker said on Monday.

Tymoshenko is charged with abuse of office in connection with the signing of a gas deal with Russia in 2009. The amendments, introduced to the parliament by the opposition, propose ridding high-ranking officials of criminal responsibility for their political actions and decriminalizing Article 365 of the Criminal Code stipulating punishment for abuse of power by officials.

Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said he had also proposed that lawmakers consider a presidential bill on Wednesday, which proposes scrapping criminal responsibility for a range of economic crimes, replacing it with a fine.

Tymoshenko, Ukraine's leading opposition figure, faces seven years in prison if found guilty of exceeding her authority by signing a contract on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine without approval from her government in January 2009. She should also pay $195 million in damages allegedly caused to Naftogaz by the deal. The court is expected to begin announcing its verdict on October 11.

Yanukovych has faced strong Western criticism over the trial, which Timoshenko and her supporters have described as "political motivated."

However, despite warnings that the trial may hamper Kiev's rapprochement with the EU, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said last week that Ukraine had a chance to become the first out of six former Soviet states involved in the EU's Eastern Partnership initiative to finalize the association agreement with the EU.

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