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 135.

    Tymoshenko is a puppet of the West.

    First they tried a regime change in order to weaken Russia and encircle it.
    Then this strategy failed and now they boycott Ukraine

    ... pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    This woman's life is in exteme danger while she remains in the clutches of the despotic and criminal Yanukovich regime. The individual european clubs ought to join a total boycott of EURO 2012 the players refusing to travel to the events nor play any Ukrainian team in the future until Tymoshenko is released from captivity. Players need to take a moral stance as well. To hell with EURO 2012.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    This woman's life is in extreme danger as long as she is in the clutches of the despotic Yanukovich regime. The players of the individual european teams for Euro 2012 ought to declare a total boycott of the event refusing to travel to play now or in the future against any Ukrainian football club until Tymoshenko is freed from capitivty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    [[Uefa president Michel Platini has complained of "crooks and bandits" hiking hotel rates in Ukraine;]]
    Such practice like hiking hotel rates during an International event are usually happening in so called developing countries with self serving and corrupt political elites and leaders. What a shame...what a mistake to honor immature Ukraine with EURO 2012 . This was a naive decision too early!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Such brutality of prisoners is to be expected from a system that is the inheritor of the legacy of the KGB, NKVD, and Stalinism. Once again the vile spun off 'aparatchicks' of Communism show who they really are true to their nature and who today wear Parisian suits, drive Mercedes, and amass illicit fortunes in Swiss Banks. But a wolf is still a wolf. They will kill Yulia and cremate the evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Tymoshenko is no angel,so please do not waste your sympathy on her. Both her and her family had their snouts in the trough along with many others and became billionaires. She is a good actress and cares nothing for the Ukrainian people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    If Bo or Chen of China was in jail getting a beating, you will see real world wide protests for regime change like never before.

    But this is in the EU so nothing, get back to looking for work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    i hope the UK boycotts the euros next. come on cameron. be useful for a change.

  • Comment number 127.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Cor lummie, an awful lot of right-wingers (right-whingers maybe?) on here in the early hours...
    Whether she is guilty or not, prisoners should never be tortured/beaten, no matter what the circumstances.
    To be considered good&just we must always strive to act in a more civilized way than our opponents.If we do not, then evil will prevail.
    Glad to see the Germans are taking a moral stance on this!

  • Comment number 125.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Howe long are we to wait for action to be taken by us then? let that woman free, the games go through with some expert football in any case. People feel easily misundertood, withdraw or retaliate? why, the next moment it's a new situation i daresay. What's more, tell anyone nowadays a story. Or keep on thinking that politcians are going to listen. Ask your neighbour. Wo? ledz have phunk & party;)

  • Comment number 123.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    We're seeing now double standards in human rights protection (e.g. China, Russia etc.) I don't remember Olumpics boycott! Why? Ukraine is an isolated country which didn't decide which way to go or whom to support. Euro 2012 was designed to bring it closer to the EU. Someone is not happy with that idea, guess who?! We won't free Tymoshenko unless we treat Ukraine as a partner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    They are all a bunch of crooks . . . best let them fight it out amongst themselves and deal with the last man standing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    one last thing from fading nerve on Earth: the Americans started all incurable terrorism, worshipping sheiks and the rest is his story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Tymoshenko is just another corrupt politician who deserves to be behind bars. The only thing separating Tymoshenko from most European politicians is that she actually IS behind bars. I assume that doesn't sit well with the other pigs around the trough. If anything, they should be protesting that the rest of the Ukrainian parliament is NOT in jail. As for the bruise - it's laughable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Yulia`s timeline reads like an excerpt from a banana republic, a bit like ours and other corrupt, back patting, self indulgent, nasty low political governments. Whilst greed and the feed from power continues there will be no change - indeed it is a weakness of our species that will lead to our demise. You have been warned - good luck in the meantime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    The casual brutality associated with the former Soviet Union now seems to reemerge in the current rulers of Ukraine,who are so alien to norms of civilised behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Read the letters of the Polish composer Frederyk Chopin werein he details fear for his family under the Russian occupation and what he thought about Imperial Russia. Ask any average Pole today about Smolensk and what he really thinks. Any serious emergence of a Nationalist Ukrainian front to throw off Russian overlordship would be met by brute force as in Syria. No wonder Russia supports Assad.


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