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Former Ukrainian President Says Tymoshenko More Powerful In Jail

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and ex-President Leonid Kravchuk at a hearing of the Higher Administrative Court in Kyiv in February 2010
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and ex-President Leonid Kravchuk at a hearing of the Higher Administrative Court in Kyiv in February 2010
KYIV -- Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, says jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's political popularity is stronger now since she was sentenced, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Kravchuk told RFE/RL on December 3 that Ukrainian authorities have made opposition forces stronger by sending Tymoshenko to prison.

"Our people traditionally support those who are intimidated and therefore Tymoshenko's [political] messages from jail will have colossal strength," said Kravchuk, who was president from 1991-94.

He added that he "respects Tymoshenko very much" and is "very sorry" that she is currently imprisoned.

Kravchuk said Ukraine's current justice system is based on a criminal code from the era of Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Josef Stalin.

He added that the situation around Tymoshenko has clearly shown that the justice system, criminal code, and related legislation should be changed, and expressed confidence they will be changed in the near future.

Tymoshenko, who was prime minister in 2005 and from 2007-10, was arrested in August and sentenced in October to seven years in prison for abuse of office in signing a gas deal with Russia during her premiership.

Tymoshenko and her supporters say the charges against her are politically motivated and many European and U.S. officials have called for her case to be resolved and for her to be released from jail.

Former Ukrainian Health Minister Mykola Polishchuk told RFE/RL on December 1 that Tymoshenko most likely needs to undergo surgery.

Polishchuk, who is a neurosurgeon, did not disclose the diagnosis for which Tymoshenko, 51, needs treatment, but said after reviewing the results of medical tests done on her that surgery is needed in most such cases.

Tymoshenko's lawyers say she is suffering from severe back pain, has bruises of unknown origin, recently experienced numbness in her left hand, and has nosebleeds.

On November 29, the State Penitentiary Service announced that Tymoshenko had been transferred to the detention center's medical unit and was being provided with full medical care.

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