Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he does not understand why former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty and handed a seven-year prison sentence for forcing through a gas deal with Russia.
He said Tymoshenko had not signed anything herself and that the agreements were concluded by the national companies in full compliance with Russian and Ukrainian laws.
Putin also warned that it was “dangerous” and “counterproductive” to question existing gas agreements between Russia and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day “Yulia Tymoshenko was prosecuted for the current, still valid, legally binding agreements between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukraine,” warning that the verdict must not affect the implementation of bilateral gas agreements.
“Tymoshenko is not our friend, and for me personally she is neither a friend nor a relative,” Putin, who is visiting China, told journalists in Beijing. “Moreover, she is rather a political competitor, because she has always been… a Western-oriented politician,” he said.
Russia and Ukraine would gain more by combining efforts on integration projects, he added.
“This would be more beneficial,” Putin said. “I am not speaking about politics,” he said, adding that Russian-Ukrainian integration would yield “economic” benefits.