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Ukraine opposition leader sentence upheld

KIEV - A Ukrainian court kept former premier Yulia Tymoshenko in jail yesterday on charges of abuse of office, defying renewed Western pressure to release the country’s top opposition leader.

The Kiev Appeals Court upheld a lower court’s guilty verdict and seven-year sentence for Tymoshenko, 50, in a decision her top aide called President Viktor Yanukovych’s “personal vengeance.’’

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Tymoshenko was convicted in October of overstepping her authority while negotiating a natural gas contract with Russia in 2009.

The United States and the European Union have sharply criticized Tymoshenko’s imprisonment as politically motivated and demanded her release.

The European Union refused to sign a key partnership deal this week with Ukraine over the Tymoshenko case.

Yanukovych, Tymoshenko’s longtime foe, said the courts and law enforcement agencies were independent and he would not intervene.

Tymoshenko’s top ally, Oleksandr Turchynov, accused Yanukovych of trying to get rid of his main political rival.

Germany’s top human rights official said the Kiev court missed an opportunity to uphold the rule of law.

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