Yulia Tymoshenko ends hunger strike after hospital move

BBC Ukraine Service's Andriy Kravets says Ms Tymoshenko was moved early in the morning

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Jailed Ukraine opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has ended her 20-day hunger strike after being moved to hospital to be treated by a German doctor.

The former prime minister suffers from serious back pain, and had refused treatment from Ukrainian doctors.

She was taken to the side entrance of a hospital in the city of Kharkiv in a heavily guarded convoy early on Wednesday.

Concern over her treatment has caused diplomatic tensions with the EU.

The issue also looks set to overshadow next month's Euro 2012 games in Ukraine and Poland, with several European leaders threatening a boycott.

Ms Tymoshenko went on hunger strike in April after accusing prison staff of beating her during an attempt to move her to hospital.

Specialised treatment
Professor Lutz Harms briefs journalists outside the hospital in Kharkiv where he is treating Yulia Tymoshenko Professor Lutz Harms says Ms Tymoshenko is very weak

Two lines of hospital staff shielded Ms Tymoshenko as she was carried into the hospital in Kharkiv on a stretcher, while supporters shouted "Freedom for Yulia", according to reports.

She is now under the care of German doctor Professor Lutz Harms.

Ms Tymoshenko has lost 10kg (22lb) while on hunger strike, according to her daughter, Yevgenia Tymoshenko.

Her supporters say that she was extremely frail and unable to walk even before she began her hunger strike. She has a herniated disc in her spine.

Speaking outside the hospital, Ukrainian Deputy Health Minister Raisa Moiseenko said the transfer had taken place "according to an agreement with an international medical commission".

Ms Moiseenko said Prof Harms would be in charge of Ms Tymoshenko's care, and that further specialists could be called upon if needed.

Speaking later, Prof Harms, a neurologist, confirmed that she had ended her hunger strike and said they were now "building up towards a normal nutrition regime".

"She is very weak and we will need to wait several days for her situation to stablise."

He then said he would start "a thorough therapy programme" that could take at least eight weeks.

Bruised

Ms Tymoshenko had refused treatment by Ukrainian doctors, saying she feared being deliberately poisoned or infected by the state.

Her lawyer Sergiy Vlasenko told AFP news agency: "Why take the risk and give the regime a chance to announce with a smile 'sorry, but there has been a medical error and she has died'."

The Ukrainian authorities refused her request to leave the country for treatment, saying the law did not permit it.

Yulia Tymoshenko showing her bruised abdomen, (file pic 25 March 2012) Yulia Tymoshenko accused prison guards of beating her

In April, Ms Tymoshenko's supporters released photographs showing bruises on her body.

They say they were inflicted by prison staff when she resisted attempts to move her to hospital to be treated by Ukrainian medics.

The authorities deny that prison staff were responsible.

Ukraine on Tuesday postponed a European summit, due to take place in Yalta, after several leaders announced a boycott over the issue.

In an attempt to mediate, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Wednesday called on Ukraine to change its law to stop politicians being jailed for decisions taken while in office.

"In my view, this would not have happened if outdated regulations that contradict European standards by allowing prison sentencing for political decisions had been phased out in time," he said.

Yulia Tymoshenko, who challenged President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 polls, was jailed for seven years in October for abuse of power during her time as prime minister.

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