Tymoshenko case: Europe pressure on Ukraine intensifies
Several European leaders have cancelled visits to Ukraine amid growing concern over alleged mistreatment of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Both EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding will boycott the Euro 2012 tournament in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel may do so too. A spokesman said any such visit would depend on Ms Tymoshenko's fate.
Five European presidents are avoiding a summit next month in Yalta, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman said the presidents of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovenia would not attend the Yalta summit of Central and East European leaders on 11-12 May.
"We're announcing it beforehand, so that nobody makes any sensation out of it. There is no reason for seeing a [diplomatic] protest behind it," spokesman Oleg Voloshin said.
The closer Euro 2012 gets, the more politicised it becomes. Uefa president Michel Platini has complained of "crooks and bandits" hiking hotel rates in Ukraine; there are problems with transport and also with security, after last Friday's bombings in Dnipropetrovsk.
But the highest profile issue is the imprisonment of former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, seen by many Western politicians as politically motivated.
Little did Uefa know when it awarded Ukraine the tournament, along with Poland, in 2007 it would have such difficulty expanding eastwards.
Top-level sports organisers try to maintain a distance from politics but here that has proved impossible. Kiev argues that by imprisoning former officials it is fighting corruption and sees the gestures from Germany, the Czech Republic and the EU as reminiscent of the Cold War.
But for many politicians in the West, Euro 2012 and the Yalta summit are opportunities to try to exert influence over the government.
Earlier, German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said the Berlin government should stay away from Ukraine during Euro 2012, which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland in June-July.
Ms Tymoshenko is reported to be on hunger strike and says she is very ill.
On Friday images appeared showing bruises on her body, which she says prison guards inflicted. She is being held in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.
An official in the Ukraine Prosecutor's Office, Vadim Goran, denied her allegation, saying the bruises came from "pushing against blunt, hard objects, or banging into them" and "in no way resulted from a punch to the stomach as she says".
After seeing the photos Sweden's Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and demanded an explanation.
Ms Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and key rival of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office and faces another trial on tax evasion charges.
The new trial has been delayed until late May because she is refusing to attend on health grounds. She accuses Mr Yanukovych of exacting political revenge on her.
The authorities have denied her request to be treated abroad. She is said to have been suffering months of back pain and is reported to have been diagnosed with a herniated spinal disc.
Mr Roettgen, quoted by Germany's Bild newspaper, said the Ukrainian "dictatorship" must not be allowed to exploit Euro 2012 for its own benefit.
Yulia Tymoshenko timeline
- Dubbed "Gas princess" in 1990s: Head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU)
- Becomes MP in 1996
- Deputy PM in charge of energy in 2000 (under PM Viktor Yushchenko)
- With Yushchenko, led 2004 Orange Revolution, overturning rival Viktor Yanukovych's rigged presidential win
- Made prime minister in 2005 but sacked after eight months after relationship with Yushchenko sours
- Returns as PM in 2007-10 and agrees controversial 10-year gas deal with Russia in 2009
- Loses presidential election to Yanukovych in Feb 2010
- Charged with misusing state funds in Dec 2010
- Jailed for seven years in Oct 2011
"That's why I think visits by ministers and prime ministers to Euro 2012 are out of the question in current circumstances," he said.
The German team will play the Netherlands in Kharkiv on 13 June. The tournament runs from 8 June to 1 July.'Cold War' boycott?
Germany's Social Democrat opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel also called for a boycott.
EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, said she would boycott Ukraine's opening ceremony for Euro 2012 because "you cannot close your eyes on human rights, even during a great sporting celebration".
Ukraine's foreign ministry says it hopes the reports about Germany considering a boycott of Euro 2012 are just "a press canard".
"We would not like to think that the political leaders of Germany are capable of reviving the methods of the Cold War and making sport a hostage of politics," spokesman Oleg Voloshin said.
In another blow to Ukraine's image abroad the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk - not one of the Euro 2012 venues - suffered four bomb blasts on Friday, which injured 27 people.
The authorities believe the attack - described as "terrorism" - was linked to a similar bomb blast in the city last November, in which the device was also placed in a rubbish bin.
Police have released photofit images of three suspects wanted in connection with Friday's attack.
Fourteen victims remain in hospital in the city, two in a serious condition, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports.