A Ukrainian court in Kiev sanctioned on Friday the arrest of the country’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.
The move came during a court hearing on abuse of offices charges stemming from Tymoshenko signing a 2009 Russian-Ukrainian gas deal.
Tymoshenko supporters, including opposition lawmakers, scuffled with some 30 police officers who entered the courtroom to detain her.
The court satisfied a request by prosecutor Lilia Frolova to arrest Tymoshenko rather than just maintain a current ban on her traveling outside Kiev, citing repeated violations of court order by the defendant. Frolova said Tymoshenko had obstructed the investigation into the case.
The arrest request was filed during Friday’s session after Tymoshenko accused Ukraine’s current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov of corruption while he was giving testimony.
Tymoshenko’s lawyer, Yury Sukhov, said he would appeal her arrest on Monday.
Tymoshenko, currently an opposition leader, is being prosecuted for signing a 2009 gas contract with Russian gas company Gazprom which Kiev says was disadvantageous to Ukraine and which, according to the new government that came to power last year, Tymoshenko had no right to sign.
Tymoshenko’s former lawyer Serhei Vlasenko described the court’s decision to arrest her as “unprecedented and groundless.” Vlasenko was removed from the case by the presiding judge for contempt of court because he continually refused to stand when the judge entered the courtroom.
In late July, the court rejected a previous request by the prosecutor to arrest the former premier.
Besides the gas case, the ex-premier also faces charges of misusing $425 million that her government received in 2009 from the selling its carbon emission rights under the Kyoto protocol. She faces up to ten years behind bars if found guilty.
Tymoshenko has repeatedly dismissed all charges brought against her as political, saying she is being targeted for opposing President Viktor Yanukovych, who narrowly beat her in the presidential election in February 2010.