. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Deputy Premier Is Arrested

KIEV — Julia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former deputy prime minister turned opposition leader, was arrested Tuesday in Kiev, several weeks after she was fired by President Leonid Kuchma over corruption charges, officials said.

Tymoshenko was arrested during questioning at the chief prosecutor's office, said a spokeswoman for Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna party. She did not give further details.

Deputy chief prosecutor Mykola Obykhod confirmed the arrest, saying only that it was caused by unspecified "new circumstances" that emerged in the case.

The arrest could galvanize anti-Kuchma protests that have continued in Kiev and elsewhere across Ukraine since December.

In one of Ukraine's highest-level corruption scandals, the chief prosecutor's office has accused Tymoshenko of stealing and illegally exporting Russian natural gas, hiding up to $1.8 billion.

Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko then asked Kuchma to dismiss Tymoshenko in order to prevent her from using her government position to influence the probe. Kuchma ousted Tymoshenko on Jan. 19.

Most of Tymoshenko's alleged crimes were committed in 1996-97, when she headed the key Ukrainian energy supplier Unified Energy Systems. Tymoshenko also was a close ally of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who fled Ukraine in February 1999 and is presently in a U.S. jail on charges of conspiring to launder millions of dollars in bribe money.

Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksandr, a top UES official, and the company's deputy director were detained last year on suspicion of misappropriating state funds in metal-trading deals.

Tymoshenko has denied wrongdoing and claimed the cases against her as well as her husband were orchestrated by political opponents.