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Authorities Shut Down Tymoshenko Protest Site 'For Repairs'

A police line outside the Kharkiv labor camp where Yulia Tymoshenko is being held in a January 6 photo.
A police line outside the Kharkiv labor camp where Yulia Tymoshenko is being held in a January 6 photo.
KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Authorities in eastern Ukraine have fenced off an area outside the labor camp housing former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that her supporters were using to stage protests and turned it into a construction site, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

It is the same lot, next to the Kachaniv labor camp outside Kharkiv, where officials leveled tents on January 10 that were being used by the protesters to sustain their demonstrations against Tymoshenko's imprisonment.

Maintenance workers said the location has been slated for sewage-system repairs.

The Kharkiv City Council told journalists on January 11 that the repair work was prompted by an accident in the sewage system near the labor camp.

Activists of the Tymoshenko-led Fatherland party on January 6 set up several tents outside the walls of the labor camp, where they had been demonstrating daily for Tymoshenko's release.

Tymoshenko, 51, was sentenced in October to seven years in jail for allegedly exceeding her authority in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She served as prime minister in 2005 and from 2007 to 2010, and ran unsuccessfully for president against Viktor Yanukovych in 2010.

She has maintained her innocence and called her treatment a political "lynching." And her supporters say the case against her is politically motivated, and Western governments have appealed for her release.

Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksandr Tymoshenko, was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic last week. He told RFE/RL in Prague that he was forced to flee by "authoritarian rule" in Ukraine, and said authorities there are seeking to "physically destroy" his wife.

Her lawyers have complained of her treatment, which was said to include the lighting of her cell through the night and other harsh measures that deprive her of sleep and are exacerbating her already worsening state of health.

Read more in Ukrainian here