Politically motivated trials have already hampered Ukraine`s progress, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs Chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen has said, according to the Official web site of Yulia Tymoshenko.

"It will be difficult if not impossible for Ukraine to deepen relations with the West while Ms. Tymoshenko remains behind bars," Senator Shaheen said during the Feb. 1 U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Ukraine.

She also noted that a major free-trade agreement with the EU that has been held up over the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, reports RFE/RL.

At the hearing, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified that democracy in Ukraine is under siege and that Kyiv is drifting closer to authoritarianism under President Viktor Yanukovych.

He cited the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko as one example of the worrying trend in Ukraine and said that developments in Ukraine present challenges to important U.S. interests in the region.