Euro 2012: Ukraine denounces 'destructive' boycott threat

Supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are seen in a tent camp in central Kiev May 3, 2012 Supporters of Ms Tymoshenko have held protests calling for her release

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Ukraine says a threatened EU boycott of Euro 2012 football matches it is hosting next month is "destructive".

In a statement, the foreign ministry said the move would undermine the image of the tournament and be detrimental to millions of Ukrainians and Poles.

Poland - which is co-hosting the event - has also criticised any boycott.

Several European leaders are considering cancelling their trips to Ukraine, in protest over the treatment of jailed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ms Tymoshenko, whose trial last year was condemned as politically motivated, is on hunger strike after allegedly being beaten by prison guards.

'Loss for millions'

The statement from the Ukrainian foreign ministry said sport events were designed to bring unity, and criticised what it said were attempts to politicise them.

"We view as destructive attempts to politicise sporting events, which since ancient times have played a paramount role in improving understanding and agreement between nations," the statement said.

"A successful championship will be a victory not for politicians, parties or ideologies, but for all Ukrainians and Poles. Its failure will be a loss for millions," it said.

There has been mounting pressure over the case of Ms Tymoshenko.

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

Austria and Belgium have already said they will not attend the games. The Dutch government said it would boycott it unless there was significant improvement in Ms Tymoshenko's human rights.

European politicians, including European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso, have also cancelled their trips.

The UK and Germany say they have not yet made a decision, but both countries have expressed concern over Ms Tymoshenko's situation.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel would not confirm whether she would attend.

"Much more important than my travel plans is that we must now do everything possible to see that Yulia Tymoshenko gets the proper treatment for her medical problems as soon as possible," Mrs Merkel was quoted as saying by the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

"The German government has been working on this for weeks and our offer stands for her to receive this medical treatment in Germany."

Also on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin said Russia would be willing to offer Ms Tymoshenko treatment, but said he opposed calls for a boycott.

Meanwhile, five European presidents - from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovenia - have said they will not attend a Ukrainian summit of Central and East European leaders next week in Yalta.

'On track'

But Ukraine's deputy prime minister has said Euro 2012 is on track and Uefa - European football's governing body - had not complained.

"The tournament is ready and on 11 May we will be transferring the control of the four stadia to Uefa," Borys Kolesnikov told AFP news agency.

Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, was jailed last year for abuse of office, in a trial condemned by the West as politically motivated.

She is an arch-rival of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, who beat her to the presidency in February 2010, avenging his defeat in the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The opening games of the month-long Euro 2012 will be played on 9 June.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    The response of Ukraine to this threatened boycott is reminiscent of what one would expect from the former Soviet Union. All bluster and self-serving rhetoric, with no substance. Ms. Tymoshenko is undoubtedly a noisy pain in the backside, but throwing her in jail on flimsy charges shows the Ukraine still has a long ways to go before it has a true democracy. Europeans must stand firm on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Ukraine is in avoidable freefall from democracy. If the West supports Ukraine's people by boycotting the EURO 2012 games, there is still a chance that Ukraine will not become another Russia. Avoid Ukraine like the plague until its police-state government falls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Where the hell were the protests and boycotts ahead of the Chinese Olympics ? Is the Ukraine's human rights record worse than China's ? For every 1 person locked up in the Ukraine 100 are locked up (and worse) in China yet NOT ONE EU politician boycotted their Olympics. If medals were handed out for hypocrisy then these buffoon politicians would win gold medals by a mile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Isn't there a European court of human rights for this kind of thing?

    I'm not a fan of football (actually hate it), but this is a political issue not a sporting one. Why are countries wanting to boycott a sporting event because of this women when they should be lodging a complaint to the EU?

    Probably because they have no jurisdiction to and the football is a convenient tool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    And yet strangely I don’t remember any of these countries boycotting the Olympics in China over its’ treatment of political prisoners and general human rights abuses. Funny that.


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