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Tymoshenko: Ukraine's polarizing 'Gas Princess'

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during her verdict hearing in 2011 in Kiev, Ukraine. She was sentenced to seven years.

European Pressphoto Agency

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during her verdict hearing in 2011 in Kiev, Ukraine. She was sentenced to seven years.

Freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, 53, would bring back one of the most polarizing figures in Ukraine's overheated political scene. She is admired as an icon of democracy and detested as a self-promoting manipulator with a shady past.

Orange Revolution

Tymoshenko became a world figure during a wave of protests of 2004, a riveting figure both for her ringing denunciations of election fraud and her distinctive mix of peasant hair and high fashion. Tymoshenko became prime minister when Viktor Yushchenko won a court-ordered election rerun. They quarrelled incessantly, and Yushchenko fired her after nine months, but she regained the premiership in 2007.

Ousted from power

In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych rode a wave of voter discontent to oust Tymoshenko from the presidency. He was the very man that Orange Revolution activists believed had stolen power from Yushchenko in the first place six years before.

Arrest and imprisonment

In 2011, she was charged with abusing power as premier in a natural gas deal with Russia. Tymoshenko said the proceedings were naked revenge, and Western governments voiced concern about a politically motivated prosecution.

Business deals

Tymoshenko and her husband took early advantage of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika reforms by creating a popular video rental business. They also founded Unified Energy Systems, a wholesale broker of natural gas. Tymoshenko became one of Ukraine's richest and most powerful oligarchs — and was dubbed "The Gas Princess." Ukraine's financial problems are complicated by a $1.3 billion gas debt to Russia that Yanukovych blames on Tymo­shenko.

Associated Press, Washington Post

Tymoshenko: Ukraine's polarizing 'Gas Princess' 02/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 11:40pm]
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