A staunchly defiant, even combative, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on trial in a Kyiv court to face charges of abuse of office stemming from a 2009 energy deal with Russia.
In a nationally televised proceeding, Tymoshenko refused to stand as Judge Rodion Kyriyev entered the chamber, calling him a puppet.
"One rises before a court. You are not a court. You are a farce," she said. "And judging by the decision you made on Saturday [June 25] ignoring all of my requests, the law, the constitution, and all my rights, you are not a court and I am not going to stand up in front of you."
Tymoshenko also repeated her allegation that the case against her is politically motivated and has been directed by her longtime political rival, President Viktor Yanukovych.
"This is not a court but a department in the presidential administration, and you are carrying out a political order," Tymoshenko said.
She also refused to respond to the judge when he addressed her directly, and Kyriyev seemed at times visibly flustered by Tymoshenko's fierce statements. At an early hearing last week, Tymoshenko asked that Kyriyev be removed and the trial handed over to a jury.
Shortly after Tymoshenko's tirade, Kyriyev suspended the hearings until July 4, saying the defense needed more time to study the case materials. The defense had requested a three-day postponement.
About 200 protesters, many of them activists with Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna party, gathered and waved flags and banners outside the Pechersk district court. Tymoshenko supporters have also erected tents in front of the court building.
In a televised interview aired on June 28, Yanukovych said that Tymoshenko is using "a purely political form of defense" and that he wants the trial to be "transparent and open."
Tymoshenko is accused of causing a loss of some $190 million to the Ukrainian state because of a 2009 energy deal she signed with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. If convicted, she faces seven to 10 years in prison.
She told reporters today that she fears she will soon be taken into custody.
RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Olena Removska contributed to this story