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Tymoshenko lawyer arrested, Ukraine stops importing Russian gas

Dimitar Dimitrov |

Tymoshenko lawyer arrested, Ukraine stops importing Russian gas

Serhiy Vlasenko, defence lawyer for the imprisoned Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, has been detained by police, an opposition MP says.

Prosecutors in Kiev are reported to be questioning the lawyer, BBC reports.

Ms Tymoshenko, a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is being treated for a back injury in prison.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has stopped importing Russian gas.

Gas has been a sensitive issue at the heart of Ukrainian politics for years. Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail for abuse of power in 2011. This was motivated by a scandalous gas deal with Russia - a conviction she sees as politically-motivated.

The EU is urging her release as a condition for signing a big trade deal. However, such an agreement could harm ties between Russia and Ukraine, which are seen as traditionally close.

Initial plans were to sign the deal in Lithuania at the end of this month, but the uncertainty surrounding Tymoshenko has generated doubt about whether there will be an agreement.

In a separate development, Ukraine has stopped importing Russian gas, amid a dispute about Ukrainian payments for gas deliveries.

Ukraine's economy depends on imported Russian gas. The pipelines which run through Ukraine also carry Russian gas to other countries in Eastern and Central Europe.

A Gazprom official quoted by Reuters news agency said supplies to European clients via Ukraine were unaffected.

There was mid-winter hardship in several European countries in 2006 and 2009 when gas supplies via Ukraine were disrupted.

The Ukrainian government says the state gas company Naftohaz Ukrainy has paid Gazprom for gas deliveries in October.

Gazprom director Alexei Miller reported that Ukraine still owed $882m (£550m) for August deliveries.

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