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Russia to pursue bribery case against Ukraine PM designate
Updated: 2005-01-26 21:22

MOSCOW - Russia's prosecutor general said that Moscow would pursue a criminal case for bribery against Ukrainian prime minister designate Yulia Timoshenko.

"This case will be investigated in line with Russian law, no more, no less," Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told reporters.

Timoshenko, a fiery politician with a strong nationalist support base, has been tapped by new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for the post of prime minister. Russia has issued an arrest warrant for her on charges of bribing Russian defence officials over gas contracts.

The decision to name Timoshenko as candidate for premier came as Yushchenko visited Moscow Monday in a bid to mend fences with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had supported the Western-leaning Yushchenko's pro-Moscow rival, Viktor Yanukovich.

The move was seen as certain to rile Moscow, which sees her as anti-Russian, and the population of the Russian-speaking east and south of Ukraine which had largely backed Yanukovich.

Known as the "gas princess" for her good looks and experience in the energy sector, she joined forces with Yushchenko in June and became one of the most visible faces of the "orange revolution," that brought the opposition leader to power after mass protests over rigged elections.

A month before the first round of last year's presidential race, Russian military prosecutors opened an investigation against her, charging she had bribed a Russian defense ministry official while heading the energy concern Unified Energy Systems.

She refused to appear to answer the charges, accusing Kuchma of making a "deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin ... to destroy those who are open to the victory of Viktor Yushchenko."

On Monday, Putin declined to comment on her candidacy, which the Ukrainian parliament is expected to vote on early next month.

"We should not judge Ukraine's new government," Putin told reporters in Moscow.

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