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Saturday, May 12, 2012

White tiger that fronted Yulia Tymoshenko's campaign to be Ukraine PM gives up life of politics to raise a family

-Supporters hope news will cheer jailed former presidential candidate

By Sara Malm

After a long and successful career in political spin, Tigryulia the tiger decided it was time to paws and focus on being a stay-at-home mum.

The white feline became a household name in Ukraine after being a poster cat for the now jailed Yulia Tymoshenko's presidential campaign

Tigryulia is now back in the spotlight after giving birth to four adorable little cubs, including one very rare albino one.

Talk about a Tiger Mom! Tigryulia holds her newborn cub in her mouth at the Skazka Zoo in Yalta, Ukraine

Tymoshenko's supporters hope that her tiger friend's joy of motherhood will help lift her spirit as she still remains in prison serving a seven year sentence for abuse in office.

It is widely know that Tymoshenko used the three-year-old Bengali tiger as a symbol of her determination to win the presidential campaign in 2009.

'These are really very rare tigers,' said Oleh Zubkov, head of Skazka Zoo in Yalta where Tigryulia and her family lives.

Tigryulia's path to fame started when the then four-month-old tiger was bought at a Swiss zoo and presented to Tymoshenko, the charismatic Orange Revolution heroine, at a children's festival.

Tymoshenko, who then served as prime minister and was running for president, fell in love with the tiger and made the animal a key image of her campaign, with posters of Tymoshenko tenderly holding Tigryulia dotting the country.

Afterward, Tigryulia was placed in the Yalta zoo and a Tymoshenko ally brought in her six-year old partner Patrice, from France to keep her company.

Adorable: The three white male cubs cuddle with their albino sister shortly after being born. The zoo has launched a competition to find names for all of them inspired by Yulia Tymoshenko

Their first meeting: Yulia Tymoshenko is presented with Tigryulia as a cub in 2009 at the beginning of her campaign

Perhaps not unsurprisingly the fierce tigress and the Frenchman did not get off to the best start and in the beginning zoo workers had to separate the animals with a metal fence.

However after seeing her man being put behind bars, Tigryulia changed her mind about Patrice and finally the tigers mated.

While Tigryulia settled in marital bliss, her fellow campaigner faced darker days.

Tymoshenko lost the 2010 presidential election to President Viktor Yanukovych and was sentenced to prison last October in a trial which has widely been condemned as a politically motivated show trial.

For nearly three weeks, Tymoshenko was on a hunger strike after prison officials allegedly beat her.

She ended it on Wednesday when a German doctor was allowed to supervise her treatment for severe back pain at the clinic in the city of Kharkiv.

Yanukovych has resisted strong pressure from the European Union and the United States to release Tymoshenko, and she has become the target of new charges and investigations.

Back in Skazka Zoo, Oleh Zubkov and his colleagues has launched a contest to name the four cubs with each name containing the sound 'Yu' to honour Yulia Tymoshenko.

In the meantime, he has sent photographs of Tigryulia and her cubs to Tymoshenko in prison.

He said that he hopes that Tymoshenko 'will enjoy these photos at such a difficult period of her life and that they will cheer her up.'

Fierce ladies: The poster with Tymosneko and a Tigryulia reads: 'Tear for Ukraine'.
The tigress was the symbol of Yulia Tymoshenko's presidential election campaign, representing her ferocious resolve



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