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UKRAINE

‘I wanted to show support to Yulia’: Swedish host

A Swedish TV-host caused a stir during Sweden's first game of the Euro 2012 football tournament when she sported the same hairstyle as Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in what she later labelled as an act of support.

'I wanted to show support to Yulia': Swedish host

Johanna Frändén, the foremost studio face for the duration of the tournament on Sveriges Television (SVT), raised eyebrows with the choice of hairstyle on Monday night.

Her plaited style tied around her head was one reminiscent of the distinctive hairstyle adopted by Tymoshenko, who became Ukraine’s first female prime-minister as leader of the Orange Revolution in 2005, and the similarity was no coincidence.

“I had decided to do this in advance of the broadcast,” Frändén told SVT.

“I wanted to show solidarity to Yulia Tymoshenko.”

Europe’s footballing board UEFA has received a great deal of criticism for handing the hosting of the tournament to the former Soviet republic.

Europe had hoped that expanding the tournament eastwards would showcase the progress made by independent Ukraine since the collapse of communism.

Instead it looks like the Tymoshenko debate, which has already been the subject of demonstrations in and around match venues, will overshadow much of the tournament’s proceedings.

At the final whistle of the game between England and France, supporters of Tymoshenko tried to stage a protest march in the direction of Kiev’s Olympic Stadium distributing “Free Yulia” t-shirts, only to be thwarted by police.

Rumours of racist chanting and abuse at matches and open training sessions have also continued to take media attention away from the action on the pitch.

“The European Championships is a festival of football but it is also being played in a nation that is not a full democracy,” Frändén told SVT.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October 2011 after what her supporters claim to be a politically motivated trial and showcase for her opposition. She was accused and convicted for exceeding her powers as Prime Minister, by ordering a Ukrainian company to sign a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

Ministers of several EU countries have decided to boycott their attendance of the opening matches of the tournament, including Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and UK ministers, because of the “selective justice” being meted on Tymoshenko.

The former leader is now being held at a hospital in Kharkiv, where she was transported after a series of self-harm episodes in April, including going on hunger strike for nearly three weeks.

“It is no wonder that we as commentators cannot have opinions,” Frändén told SVT when quizzed on her motives.

“It is not a political position right or left. It is an act of solidarity for Yulia Tymoshenko, who had not received a fair trial.”

Joe Lynskey

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RUSSIA

Gazprom appeals Swedish arbitration court’s ruling

Russian gas giant Gazprom has appealed a Swedish arbitration court ruling that ordered it to pay more than $2.5 billion to Ukraine's gas firm Naftogaz.

Gazprom appeals Swedish arbitration court's ruling
The dispute dates back several years. Photo: AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky

“On March 21st Gazprom filed a request to the Court of Appeals in the Svea District to partially annul the final arbitration ruling with Naftogaz Ukraine on the subject of deliveries” of gas, the firm said in a statement on Thursday.

It said the appeal was motivated by errors of procedure and abuses committed by the arbitrators.

Last month the Stockholm Arbitration Court ordered Gazprom to pay $2.56 billion to Naftogaz to settle all of their legal disputes and ordered the resumption of deliveries of Russian gas to Ukraine.

The two companies had demanded tens of billions of dollars from each other in a dispute over an expensive 10-year contract Ukraine signed in 2009 after Gazprom cut its deliveries in the middle of the winter.

Gazprom refused to restart deliveries as ordered at the beginning of March and had indicated it planned to appeal the ruling.

Moscow and Kiev have had a number of disputes over gas supplies in recent years, some of which led to reductions in supplies to other European countries via pipelines that transit Ukraine.

Roughly 15 percent of the gas Europe buys from Russia is transported through Ukraine.