Europe and US pressure Ukraine over Tymoshenko scandal
Leaders in Europe and the US expressed growing condemnation on the alleged maltreatment of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, after the jailed politician’s daughter expressed fears that her mother could die if she continues a hunger strike.
Germany warned it would block a political and trade integration deal between the European Union and Ukraine, which has been negotiated for two years, if Tymoshenko was not allowed adequate medical care.
As Ukraine was named co-host of Europe’s biggest football tournament this year, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she would boycott the 2012 European Championships in Ukraine.
President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso and justice commissioner Viviane Reding said they would not take part in any events in Ukraine because of the Tymoshenko affair.
Five European countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovenia – have said they would not attend a Ukrainian summit of Central and East European leaders in Ukraine’s Black Sea resort of Yalta next week.
Tymoshenko reportedly went on hunger strike on 20th April – the day she was allegedly assaulted by the prison guards – when the guards attempted to transfer her to hospital, as she had been suffering from severe back pain. However, she is refusing to see doctors provided by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and instead insists on treatment by German specialists.
Tymoshenko, 51, a heroine of the October Revolution in 2004, was jailed for seven years on abuse of office charges since October last year.
European leaders criticised the jailing of Tymoshenko, as the move appeared to be a politically motivated revenge by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych.
Human Rights Watch called on the Ukrainian authorities to investigate allegations that Tymoshenko was being maltreated. The campaign group said anyone responsible for the ill-treatment should be prosecuted.
Tymoshenko’s daughter, Eugenia, said her mother has been “brutally beaten” in prison and that her life was “in danger” and described the authorities’ treatment of her as “cynical” and “cruel.”