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New Tymoshenko Trial Opens

Yulia Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year prison term

Yulia Tymoshenko is already serving a seven-year prison term

Ukraine has begun the first hearing in a new trial against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is already serving a seven-year prison term for unrelated charges.

Tymoshenko, who denies any wrongdoing and has consistently accused authorities of politically motivated persecution in this and other cases, has refused to attend the opening hearing, citing poor health.

Her family and lawyers say she has been suffering from back pains for months.

Tymoshenko is accused of tax evasion and attempted theft related to her activities as the head of a major gas-trading company in the 1990s.

Tymoshenko was convicted in October on charges of abuse of office.

Supporters and even foreign governments have accused the Ukrainian government of unfairly prosecuting her.

She says she is the victim of politically motivated repression by the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was unseated in the 2004-05 Orange Revolution but returned to defeat Tymoshenko in a presidential runoff five years later.

The case has soured Ukraine's ties with the European Union and the United States.

With additional reporting by Reuters, UNIAN, ITAR-TASS, and BBC