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Ukraine's Tymoshenko faces new charges for misusing $131 mln

RIA Novosti

17:59 24/12/2010

MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is accused of spending 100 million euros ($131 million) from government reserves to buy cars that she later used in her presidential campaign, the Prosecutor General's Office said on Friday.

Ukrainian prosecutors discovered that the previous government of Tymoshenko had initiated the purchase of 1,000 Opel Combo minivans by the country's Health Ministry intended to be used as ambulances. To pay for the cars, the ministry had to take a loan under state guarantees, which cost the country an additional 43.4 million euros ($56.8 million), the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

"Cars that have been supplied were used in the election campaign of Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko by placing the caption 'Tymoshenko Government's Program' and other campaign captions on them, by distributing them between village healthcare facilities with certificates personally signed by the former prime minister ... as well as during campaign events involving her," the statement said.

However, the cars that have been purchased are not registered as those intended to be turned into ambulances, it said. Moreover, the price the Tymoshenko government paid for them was 47.8 million hryvnias ($6.05 million) higher than what the same cars cost at retail outlets in Ukraine.

The country's budget also lost 46 million hryvnias ($5.8 million) because the cars were imported without undergoing customs clearance, which was a breach of law.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said earlier on Friday that new charges related to misuse of government funds may be brought against Tymoshenko, who already faces trial on accusations of spending money intended for ecological projects to pay pensions. The former prime minister not yet been officially charged in the second case.

Tymoshenko has long been at odds with the current president, Viktor Yanukovych, to whom she narrowly lost February's presidential elections. Tymoshenko was prime minister under the previous presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, but moved to opposition after her government was dissolved in March following the elections.

Tymoshenko supporters accuse the Yanukovych government of pursuing "pro-Russian" policies and betraying Ukraine's own interests and claim that a "campaign" against their leader is aimed at wiping out opposition.