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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 02:12 GMT
Ukraine's deputy PM charged with fraud
Yulia Timoshenko
Timoshenko says the opposition are behind the charges
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, Yulia Timoshenko, has been charged with "smuggling and falsification of documents," a spokesman for the country's top prosecutor said.

Ms Timoshenko has not been arrested, but the authorities have forbidden her to leave Kiev without authorisation as long as legal proceedings continue, said Mikola Obikhod.

The deputy prime minister is accused of funnelling more than $1.1 billion dollars out of the Ukraine and of cheating tax authorities to the tune of nearly $150,000 between 1997 and 1999.

Pavlo Lazarenko
She was an associate of ex-Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko
Ms Timoshenko, 40, denies any wrongdoing and claims that her political opponents, who are upset by her handling of energy reforms, are behind the legal moves and want to wreck her career.

"Everything the prosecutor is doing is illegal," she said on Monday, after six hours of questions. "They are trying to stop me putting the energy sector in order."

Gas smuggling

A former director of the United Energy Systems company, the deputy prime minister also stands accused of fraudulently importing nearly three billion cubic metres (100 billion cubic feet) of Russian gas in 1996 using forged documents.

She was appointed in December 1999 and has been responsible for an overhaul of the energy sector in the former Soviet republic.

Russian authorities are also keen to interview Ms Timoshenko in connection with an embezzlement case implicating several senior Russian defence ministry staff.

Husband jailed

Ms Timoshenko refused to give evidence to the Russian investigators when she was on a visit there at the end of 2000.

Olexander Timoshenko, her husband, was convicted and jailed for corruption in August 2000.

Ms Timoshenko is also a former supporter and associate of ex-Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was charged by a US grand jury on 11 counts, including money laundering, and is accused in Ukraine of embezzling millions of dollars from the state.

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15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ukraine
20 Dec 00 | Business
IMF lends to Ukraine
10 Jan 01 | Europe
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