So Yulia Tymshenko has been arrested - generating quite a reaction...
After weeks of 'dissing' the court, why now?
Yesterday, Yuriy Yekhanurov, who replaced Tymoshenko as PM after she was sacked by Yushchenko in 2005, was cross-examined by her for several hours in court.
Today the current PM, Mykola Azarov was getting the same treatment. Despite her best efforts, Tymoshenko was continuously prevented from quizzing these two characters about infamous gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo.
In January 2006 Yekhanurov signed a murky gas deal with Gazprom involving RUE which, at the time, even foremost experts in the field could not untangle and interpret. In April last year Azarov did a shady deal with Putin on gas - most controversially linking the price of gas to the lease on the Sevastopol naval base used by the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Minister of Energy, Yuriy Boyko, a former head of NaftoHaz Ukrainy closely associated with the introduction of RUE into the Russian/Ukrainian gas business, was also about to be called as a witness today. He was pelted by Tymoshenko supporters outside the courthouse.
My guess is these people, Tymoshenko's biggest political opponents, had had enough of the spotlight being thrown on RUE. Hence the court's decision to 'pay back' Tymoshenko and imprison her.
Because she is accused of signing a gas contract in 2009 that was allegedly financially harmful to Ukraine's interests, it was surely not unreasonable for her to bring up the historical background to this deal in the courtroom, to shed some light on why she struck the deal she did.
She is also accused of abuse of power linked to the signing of these 2009 gas contracts, but, most unfairly, her requests for impartial experts in constitutional and government law, and NaftoHaz's external auditors familiar with the company's finances to be called as witnesses for the defence, were denied yesterday. However her biggest political opponents, who inevitably would give biassed evidence, were called. Now she has to pay the price..
'Front Zmin' leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, until now lukewarm in his support of Tymoshenko, was swift and forthright in his condemnation of today's arrest. "A rubicon has been crossed, democracy has been terminated..." he says.
Today was certainly a watershed...the attitude of European politicians to Ukraine's current authorities will now radically, and probably irreversibly, change..
p.s. Tymoshenko has found a powerful ally - World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitaliy Klichko who has interrupted his training and returned to Kyiv at this moment of crisis. He claims Ukraine's democratic gains since independence 20 years ago are at risk..