Tymoshenko best-seller rekindles fire of revolution

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The Independent Online

She has been named one of the world's three most powerful women, had banknotes run off in her honour and inspired a bizarre pornographic film, but now Julia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's most glamorous politician, can boast a new spin-off: a best-selling thriller.

An edgy paperback recounting the events leading up to her dismissal as prime minister last year and her spectacular fall from grace after Ukraine's orange revolution in 2004 mixed with a liberal dash of fiction and conspiracy theory has become a runaway hit.

Though her advisers are reluctant to admit it, the novel is fuelling what has already become a powerful cult of personality that can only help her chances of winning back her job in crunch elections on 26 March.

Ms Tymoshenko, 45, was sacked by her one-time ally President Viktor Yushchenko last year after he complained that his ministers were spending more time in-fighting than on delivering the orange revolution's promises.

Ms Tymoshenko's critics accused her of spending too much time on sprucing up her own image and settling personal scores.

Despite attempts at reconciliation, the two revolutionaries have not patched up their differences and are contesting the parliamentary elections as rivals.

The book, entitled To Kill Julia, makes little effort to conceal its inspiration, making only minor changes to the surnames of the country's leading politicians. Penned by Yuri Rogoz, a Tymoshenko admirer and a member of her party, it tells the story of a failed attempt to assassinate the woman who came to be known during the revolution as the orange princess.

Although in real life there was no such attempt, she and her supporters believe that a clutch of corrupt advisers surrounding Mr Yushchenko engineered what amounted to her political assassination.

The book was published last month and has been flying off the shelves since, with Kiev bookshops reporting it to be outselling other titles by a ratio of 20 to one. Its publisher, Folio, has printed 1.7 million copies, the biggest print run in its history, and has priced the book competitively - at just $1. Ms Tymoshenko's rivals denounced the book as "black PR", but it has not harmed her popularity ratings. A poll this month put her support at 29 per cent, more than Mr Yushchenko, and second only to Viktor Yanukovych, the presidential contender ousted by the orange revolution.