The arrest of Tymoshenko on Friday adds a new twist to a case that she considers politically motivated [Reuters]

A Ukrainian court has ordered the detention of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, following a state prosecutor's move to take her into custody during her trial on charges of abuse of office.

The prosecution said Tymoshenko was disturbing the courtroom proceedings on Friday, a charge she denied.

Complying with the presiding judge's orders, police surrounded Tymoshenko and escorted her out of the courtroom.

Her supporters in court, including legislators, squabbled with riot police and tried to prevent them from driving her away in a prison car and shouting: "Shame! Shame!"

Dozens of them then gathered outside the court building, in the capital Kiev, and tried to block the road, but riot police pushed them aside.

Judge Rodion Kireyev said he ordered Tymoshenko's detention over her "systemic violations" of court rules.

He did not say how long the detention would last and adjourned the trial until Monday.

"They [the authorities] are just showing off their power," Serhiy Vlasenko, a former Tymoshenko lawyer, said in the courtroom.

Tymoshenko, 50, the country's most powerful opposition leader, has criticised the trial as an attempt by President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia, to bar her from elections and mocked the court.

She has refused to rise when addressing the court, as required, and routinely insulted the judge. Her supporters have repeatedly disrupted hearings.

Case against Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko has been accused of illegally forcing the state energy company, Naftogaz, to sign a gas-supply contract with Russia in 2009.

She insists she is innocent, arguing that the contract ended weeks of natural-gas disruptions to Ukrainian and European consumers and that she was authorised to sign the deal as prime minister.

Experts in Ukraine and abroad believe the trial's real motive is to disqualify Tymoshenko from forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections by convicting her as a felon.

Tymoshenko has a long and bitter history with Yanukovych.

She was the central figure in Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests that threw out Yanukovych's fraud-tainted victory in a presidential election and led to another vote that brought a pro-Western government to power.

Tymoshenko became prime minister, but Ukrainians grew frustrated by economic hardships, slow reforms and endless bickering in the Orange camp.

As a result, she lost to  Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election.

Source: Agencies