28 Mar 2014

Tymoshenko to run for president

9:54 am on 28 March 2014

Ukraine's highly-divisive opposition leader and former premier, Yulia Tymoshenko, has announced plans to contest snap presidential polls set for 25 May following last month's fall of a pro-Kremlin regime.

"I intend to run for president of Ukraine," the 53-year-old told reporters after walking into a press room with the help of a walking stick she has been forced to use because of persistent back pain.

Yulia Tymoshenko announcing her decision.

Yulia Tymoshenko announcing her decision. Photo: AFP

The dramatic announcement completes a highly improbable return to national politics that underscores the scale of changes that have shaken the former Soviet republic of 46 million in the past few weeks, AFP.

Ms Tymoshenko - one of the most charismatic and outspoken leaders of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution - lost a close presidential poll to Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 after heading two pro-Western cabinets that became embroiled in fighting and eventually lost popular support.

AFP reports her political downfall after the 2010 vote was rapid and seemingly fatal.

Mr Yanukovych's government quickly launched a series of criminal probes against his political rival that led to a controversial trial over Ms Tymoshenko's role in agreeing a 2009 gas contract with Russia that many Ukrainians thought came at too high a cost.

Ms Tymoshenko was convicted in October 2011 for abuse of power and sentenced to a seven-year jail term that Western nations denounced as the use of selective justice.

But she emerged triumphantly from the state hospital in which she spent most of her sentence under guard on 22 February - the day parliament ousted Yanukovych for his role in the deaths of nearly 100 protesters in Kiev earlier that month.

Ms Tymoshenko then immediately went to the protest square in the heart of Kiev that also served as the crucible of the 2004 pro-democracy movement that propelled her political career.

Yet the crowd's reception of the one-time opposition icon was guarded - a sign of their growing weariness of the corruption allegations that have stained Ms Tymoshenko's reputation in recent years.