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Ukrainian Wants Ex-Colleagues Freed

June 3, 2002

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ Ukrainian opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko appealed Monday to Turkish authorities to grant political asylum to her father-in-law and three of her former colleagues detained in Turkey by Interpol.

Tymoshenko, a former deputy prime minister, said police detained the four last Saturday, and called the incident political pressure against her activities in Ukraine’s parliament, according to the Interfax news agency.

The four were Yevhen Shaho, the top executive of the Unified Energy Systems company, a key energy supplier that functioned under Tymoshenko’s control in 1990s; company president Hennadiy Tymoshenko, her father-in-law; and two company accountants.

Ukrainian prosecutors accuse them of hiding hard currency profits and of large-scale theft of state assets. A Kiev court dropped a similar case against Tymoshenko this year.

UES was one of Ukraine’s most influential companies in the 1990s because of its key role in the lucrative natural gas sector.

Tymoshenko soared to fame in the 1990s as head of UES. As deputy premier in 1999, she pushed through reforms of the energy sector that angered many influential tycoons.

While Western investors hailed the changes, some local economists said they favored only Tymoshenko’s allies. She was ousted from the government in 2000 and turned fiercely against President Leonid Kuchma.

Tymoshenko’s bloc received 22 seats in the 450-seat parliament after March 31 elections.

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