February 22

Ukraine’s Tymoshenko speaks to protesters

The former prime minister arrives after being released from a hospital, where she was incarcerated.

By Maria Danilova
The Associated Press

And Yuras Karmanau

KIEV, Ukraine — Hours after being released from prison, former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko praised the demonstrators killed in violence this week as heroes as she addressed a massive crowd at the protester encampment in Kiev on Saturday,.

click image to enlarge

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is greeted by supporters shortly after being freed from prison in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. One of her close allies said Tymoshenko was traveling directly to address the crowds on Kiev’s iconic Independence Square – occupied since President Yanukovych’s decision in November to spurn an agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

The Associated Press

The 53-year-old Tymoshenko, who suffered severe back problems during her 2 years in prison, spoke to the crowd from a wheelchair and appeared close to exhaustion.

But her flair for vivid words was undimmed.

“You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine!” she said of those killed in the violence. The Health Ministry on Saturday said the death toll in clashes between protesters and police that included sniper attacks had reached 82.

Saturday’s appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing.

After the protests forced the rerun of a presidential election nominally won by her foe Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko became prime minister. But when Yanukovych won the 2010 election, Tymoshenko was arrested and put on trial for abuse of office, an action widely seen as political revenge.

Now Yanukovych once again appears on the wane and Tymoshenko on the rise. After Friday’s agreement between the president and the opposition that reduced Yanukovych’s powers, Yanukovych has gone to Kharkiv in his support base of eastern Ukraine, leaving the capital effectively in the control of the opposition.

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