The Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, said on Monday punishment for corrupt officials should be tougher and called for life prison terms for the most greedy bribetakers, RIA Novosti reported.

The prime minister was quoted as saying "with those officials, who manage to put 140 hectares (346 acres) of land into their pocket, appropriate a factory, or a major power plant... I would be strict", adding "life imprisonment" would be an adequate punishment for the corruptionists.

"I sometimes even envy China, where... they chop off hands, order death penalty [for corrupt officials]," Tymoshenko said.

"Of course, we cannot treat [them] in such a way, as we are a European country. Although fingers itch sometimes," the braid-wearing prime minister added.

Tymoshenko said her dream was to "show once that a strong, consolidated power, which would finally begin establishing order in the country, could exist."

Earlier, another presidential candidate, former Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, also called for punishing corrupt judges, prosecutors and investigators by life prison terms. A relevant bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament in May, but was then vetoed by President Viktor Yushchenko.

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on January 17. The Central Election Committee has registered 18 candidates, including Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, leader of the opposition Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and former Rada speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Polls predict that no candidate will secure an outright majority in the first round, with Yanukovych expected to garner around 30% to 20% for Tymoshenko.

Surveys show that the Party of Regions leader will go on to beat the prime minister in a runoff due at the start of February.

Yushchenko is expected to receive less than 5% of the first-round vote.


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