Ukraine: Health of ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko alarms envoy

Yulia Tymoshenko seen through the bars of her prison cell (4 Nov 2011) Ms Tymoshenko complained of health problems during her trial

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Ukraine's human rights envoy Nina Karpacheva says the jailed Ukrainian former PM Yulia Tymoshenko has "extremely serious" health problems.

The envoy said that during a visit to her Kiev prison cell on Sunday night, Ms Tymoshenko, 50, could not get out of bed.

Ms Karpacheva said the former prime minister needed to be examined and treated outside the prison.

Ms Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years for abuse of office in October.

She denied the charges, accusing President Viktor Yanukovych, an old political opponent, of orchestrating a conspiracy against her.

Western leaders were among those who protested at her sentence over a gas deal with Russia which she oversaw while prime minister in 2009.

Back injury

Ukraine's prison service confirmed on 7 November that Ms Tymoshenko injured her back two days earlier during a prison yard walk but blamed her own "carelessness".

Supporters have expressed concern about the former 2004 Orange Revolution leader's health.

Ms Tymoshenko also complained of various health problems during her trial.

Ms Karpacheva, a human rights ombudsman nominated by the Ukrainian parliament, said she made an unannounced visit to Lukyanivska prison where Ms Tymoshenko is being held in a cell along with two other women.

Ms Karpacheva told Ukrainian radio: "Her condition is extremely grave, she could not get out of bed when talking to me. She needs examination and treatment outside the detention centre."

However, she did not say what was wrong with Ms Tymoshenko.

Ms Karpacheva also said it was unacceptable that Ms Tymoshenko was now being interrogated by investigators in her prison cell - a practice the human rights envoy said had not occurred in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Ms Tymoshenko was charged on 11 November with new offences dating back to the 1990s, which she also denies.

These include tax evasion, theft and concealing foreign currency revenues while serving as head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine - a gas company she formed in the mid-1990s to supply Ukrainian industry.

Correspondents say the new charges lessen her chances of being released from prison in the near future.

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