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 75.

    I support politician's boycotting Ukraine but why did no one boycott them before on their terrible record on gay rights ? I thought countries had to have a good human rights record to be included in the EU ?

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Well, since when Euro trash was so sensitive to human rights issues, why don't they look into their past, just recently in 1992, when millions of Bosnian Muslims and orthodox Croats were massacred I don't see any one putting sanctions or boycotting Serbia that time or severe any ties until they are assured that Serbian done with Massacre, not only that Euro trash not even recognized as genocide.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    "They're not the only ones. Maybe it's a 'country beginning with U' thing?"

    Nicely put

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    62.Centres for Stuff I Heard from Some Guy
    "Democracy is not simply holding elections and abiding by the results. It is about upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights and liberties of individuals and minorities. Much of the former USSR falls short on its application of the rule of law"

    They're not the only ones. Maybe it's a 'country beginning with U' thing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    One word. Ewe-rope. Mind your own business clowns. Especially die Kartoffeln. We still remember that other human rights preacher. You know the one was incinerated circa 1945.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    @66 Not quite. While Stalin did add Polish territory to the USSR in 1939, this was a relatively small strip. Pre 1930s famine the Ukraine was ethnically overwhelmingly Ukrainian. The famine changed that in the east as ethnic Russians replaced the deceased Ukrainians, not only in the Donbass but also in the Kuban (not part of the Ukrainian SSR). Khrushcvev added the Crimea in 1954.

  • Comment number 66.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Sports and politics regularly mix. Boycott football in the Ukraine if necessary to make it clear that rights-abuses will not be tolerated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Well it's nice to see that at least in some countries being a former PM is no bar to being found guilty of a crime and imprisoned. Maybe we could learn something from the Ukraine. We haven't forgotten about you Tony!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Furthermore, this is not only about Yulia. It's also about Lutsenko and at least 12 other opposition leaders who are now being persecuted. It's about the crooked legal system with crooked judges. It's about the free press being steadily muzzled since Yanukovich became president in 2010. It's about so much more. Sad really. The Ukraine deserves better leaders than Yanuk and his PoR thugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Yanukovich was democratically elected"

    Democracy is not simply holding elections and abiding by the results. It is about upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights and liberties of individuals and minorities. Much of the former USSR falls short on its application of the rule of law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Yes it's a sad situation in Ukraine with Mrs. Tymoshenko.We forget she & all the other millionaire politicians in Ukraine and most of the Soviet Block countries got their money the same way. They were there when the country gained it freedom & simply divided the state owned companies amongst themselves. (Singers & sports people excluded.) 1/2 the people in Ukraine still have no flush toilet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The EU is too self-righteous for it's own good.
    Yanukovich was democratically elected. Perhaps he isn't the nicest guy in the world but the EU would do well to stop sticking it's nose in other people's business. Sports and Politics aren't meant to mix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    @54 Yanuk sold state-owned KriviRizhStal to Akhmetov for $800M in 2004, even though there were higher bids. Yulia cancelled the deal, sold KRS at public auction. Mittal was highest bidder at $3.8 Billion, a gain of 3 billion over Akhmetov. That was 3 billion extra for the Ukrainian treasury. Economic crime against the Ukrainian people? Hardly. The crime was the fraud by Yanuk and Akhmetov.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Yulia upset a lot of Yanuk's cronies, most notably Akhmetov when as PM she cancelled a rigged deal between Yanuk and Akhmetov in 2005- Yanuk had sold a large steel plant to Akh for far less than its market value in 2004 when he was PM under Kuchma.
    The 2009 gas deal with Putin cut out another of Yanuk's cronies, Firtash and his RosUkr Energo. Hence Yanuk's persecution and her jail sentence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Agree with 54 (except for "dirty hands") that YT case not open & shut. How was she with others' human rights as PM? She rose to power by violating many basic ethical principles. Don't be surprised that few of her compatriots feel much pity. Having said that, I do not object to the boycott. EU leaders have made a request for YT be sent abroad. They are entitled to react as they see fit if denied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Ain't the eu a harmonious place.


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