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The judge presiding over former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's trial unexpectedly postponed hearings Monday for a two-week period, following renewed pressure from the United States and the European Union.

Tymoshenko, 50, the former Soviet nation's top opposition figure, stands accused of abuse of office when signing a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. Prosecutors say she violated legal procedures when the deal was signed.

Judge Rodion Kireyev's decision to suspend hearings marks a contrast with how the trial has been rushed over the past two months, drawing complaints from Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, who was jailed during the trial early last month on charges of contempt of court, maintains her innocence. She says the trial has been orchestrated by President Viktor Yanukovych to keep her out of political life.

Although a deeply divisive figure in Ukraine, Tymoshenko retains a substantial following and was only narrowly defeated by Yanukovych in last year's presidential election.

The United States and the European Union have criticized the trial as politically motivated.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton together with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton sent Yanukovych a letter regarding the Tymoshenko trial Friday, according to an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He would not discuss the content of the letter and Yanukovych's office declined to comment.

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