Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has appealed to her fellow countrymen to end President Viktor Yanukovich's "criminal" rule ahead of next month's parliamentary election.
Tymoshenko's party on Saturday released a shaky video of her appealing to voters from the hospital where she is being held. In the video, she discussed Yanukovich's motivations, as well as the hardship of her incarceration.
The former Ukrainian prime minister is serving a seven-year sentence, having been convicted last October for abuse of power.
"Every day, there is not just physical and psychological pressure. Every day here is simply transformed into a hell (for me) – completely consciously and intentionally. This is a direct plan by Yanukovich," she said.
Appealing to voters
Despite being banned from running in the October 28 election, owing to her imprisonment, Tymoshenko, 51, used the video to rally her Fatherland Party supporters ahead of the vote.
In the video, which was released on the party's web site, the jailed former leader accuses Yanukovich of corruption and of building a "mafia" regime.
Yanukovich's Party of the Regions is expected to retain its majority in the election, but some polls say it is closely trailed by a block that includes Tymoshenko's party.
Tymoshenko denies all of the charges – including the abuse of power conviction and a pending second trial where she is to face charges of embezzlement and tax evasion – and says they are a result of a vendetta by Yanukovich.
Yanukovich narrowly beat Tymoshenko for the presidency in a run-off vote in February 2011. She became his rival when she helped lead the "Orange Revolution" protests which derailed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency.
The West has condemned her prosecution as being politically motivated, and Ukrainian relations with the European Union and the United States have been strained as a result.
The second trial against Tymoshenko has been delayed while the former leader receives treatment for back trouble at a hospital in Kharkiv.
tm/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)