Tymoshenko case: Europe pressure on Ukraine intensifies

In photos published by the website Liga, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is shown displaying bruises Several images of Ms Tymoshenko show bruising on her body

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    "...Truth *is* worth fighting for!"

    Whose truth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Tymoshenko is a real criminal who deserves life in prison for the economic crimes she committed against Ukrainian people. EU is interested in a weak Ukraine that is easy to manipulate. During the presidency of Yanukovych the economy of Ukraine is growing quite fast.
    Please, keep your dirty hands off Ukraine and don't use sports to reach your political goals.

    Ukrainian scientist working in EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    38. Name Number 6
    1. HaveIGotThatWrong
    ''Uefa president Michel Platini has complained of "crooks and bandits" hiking hotel rates in Ukraine.''
    Every time I post criticizing FIFA or UEFA the BBC takes it down
    Panorama: Three Fifa World Cup officials took bribes
    So it seems has mine now, but it was okay for 3 hours and now suddenly it's broken the "House Rules."

    Draw you own conclusions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @Tony Martin ...Cameruin, Sarkozy and ilk to shut ...not you Tony martin..me and you are also a victim of these European leaders
    And hey...i do not want politics, i want to watch football!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    On one hand I'm sorry she's been jailed. On the other, she did upset a lot folks and did spend a lot of effort to be come "Prime Minister" or Top Dog, but then squandered it. She thwarted Viktor Yushchenko and, by my judgement, allowed the rise of the Soviet puppet Viktor Yanukovych. Perhaps jail will teach her about the benefits of protecting Orange Revolution alliances rather than trashing them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Not only should EU boycott Euro 2012 in Ukraine, but also impose sanctions against it's officials guilty of human rights abuse, similar to those on Belarus. Yanukovych disregard human rights, press freedom etc.
    I am Ukrainian, and I am not Tymoshenko supporter, but I feel outraged at her treatment in prison. She is not an exception - all prisoners in Ukraine are treated this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The West FAILED Ukraine when Moscow bully boys flexed their cold war muscles.
    Now same bully boys are supplying a dictator with modern weapons to crush his own people.
    Maybe the West should erect a new Wall around those countries who yen for the USSR and leave them to it, whilst keeping an eye on them with the USA missile sheild??
    Old Eastern Bloc NOT democratic FULLY yet. Ukraine a straggler

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    It's so sad to see Stalin and his ideology of naked power still predominant in eastern Europe, particularly as Euro 2012 was meant to show the great dictator's shadow had passed. Evidently the real world doesn't work so conveniently. My prayers are for the Ukraine, and Ms Tymoshenko. Truth *is* worth fighting for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    ** 42

    I see Elevatedpolitik is acting like a stooge for a dictator by demanding we "SHUT UP". Criminals, psychopaths and followers of any dictator hate with a passion when people point out the type of people they are. Yak Yak Yak Yak, I'm English I can't be shut up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Unfortunately, events like this seem to be fairly common - while boycotts may send a message of passive hostility, the chances of actually stemming the tide of the issue at hand is near to none.

    43: Maybe while you're over there you could be tutored in spelling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    My dear PATC at 35:

    "In response to swapping her for Jeremy Hunt could we add Jeremy Clarkson to the deal too!"

    Sadly, no. The objective here is get Mrs. Tymoshenko released from Jail and NOT to ensure the entire nation of Ukraine surrenders to William Hague and pleads to become an outpost British dependency, like the Isle of Wight or Canvey Island.

    Clarkson would be the Nuclear option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Who cares about politicians? :D Euro2012 is for football fans! I hope we are going to get more tickets now!? Anyway, Tymoshenko is a super rich woman, her daughter officially has no assets but she had a weeding party for 800000 euro :)) Tymoshenko is a criminal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What about visit to Baharin

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    As a UK national who has lived in Ukraine for several years, I can look from the outside in and give everybody an honest impression. Yanukovitch has turned the country into a dictatorship and has taken over the law courts. There is NO doubt in my mind that she is in prison because she is the only person who could provide opposition to his Presidency. Yes corruption rules predominantly at the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    This is cold war rhetoric.some of these European powers pander to the gallery yet they can't boycott Israel regime which is the greatest violator of human rights. countries like Sweden have been helping S. Arabia, the world's cruelest regime build a weapons factory. NATO, composed of these good for nothing countries like UK and France have been bombing Afghanistan and Libya before. SHUT UP!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    19. Judgement_Germany
    Although Mr Hague of the UK claims to fight for human rights, he hesitates in judging the Timoshenko case.
    What does he make of his cabinet colleague's trip to Uzbeckistan in February - I gather Mr Karimov is quite partial to poached opponents.

    Ditto I suspect - but then again this is Lord Ashcroft's bagman - he's well trained in keeping his mouth shut.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    5.Perpetual Sigh - ".......It does not broadcast a balance of views concerning the Olympics......."

    Yet the Beeb chosses to use it multi-meida platforms to give voice to everyone, whatever their (legal) views - there is NO difference between passing negative Olympic comments on the web from giving time on the TV news to both sides.....they are boardcasting it all......

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    1. HaveIGotThatWrong
    ''Uefa'' president Michel Platini has complained of "crooks and bandits" hiking hotel rates in Ukraine.''
    Every time I post criticizing FIFA or UEFA the BBC takes it down
    Panorama: Three Fifa World Cup officials took bribes

    I guess they don't watch their own programmes.

    So you'll just have to work out the irony for yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Since Berlin in 1936 people/governments have been willing to turn a blind eye to propaganda stunts that are clothed as sporting events. These events lend legitimacy to the rulers and generate vast sums for their corrupt elites. But it up to people and businesses as well as governments to boycott places such as S.Africa in the apartied years. Why did Uefa award Ukraine the games in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    We did consider going to watch England at Euro 2012, but this stuff plus the crazy hotel prices made us think twice. It will be interest to see what the senior folks in FIFA and UEFA make of it all.......or will they be too busy checking their bank accounts and overseas property portfolio's.
    Some say Qatar is great for football this time of the years ;-)


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