Ukraine ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko 'can return to prison'

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Yulia TymoshenkoImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Yulia Tymoshenko was the face of Ukraine's pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004

Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is well enough to return to prison after spending nine months in hospital, the health ministry has said.

Tymoshenko was being treated for back problems after being jailed in 2011 for abuse of office.

Her supporters regard that conviction as politically motivated.

Last year she claimed to be too ill to attend court proceedings relating to a separate charge of misappropriation of public funds.

The Ukrainian authorities are also investigating allegations against her of tax evasion and involvement in murder.

Her conviction for abuse of office relates to a gas deal she signed with Russia as prime minister in 2009, which critics said paid Russia too high a price.

Trial boycott

Her supporters say she was jailed to prevent her being a political threat to Viktor Yanukovych, the current president.

She remains a popular politician despite her imprisonment, after coming second to Mr Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election.

Tymoshenko was a face of Ukraine's pro-democracy Orange Revolution alongside Mr Yanukovych's long-time rival Viktor Yushchenko.

Correspondents say the health ministry's announcement will make it difficult for her to avoid appearing in court.

Previously she has boycotted trial proceedings against her, and has also staged hunger strikes in protest at conditions in prison and alleged election fraud.