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Europe calls Euro 2012 penalty on Ukraine for treatment of Tymoshenko

With Ukraine and Poland preparing to host the Euro 2012 soccer championship, Europe sees it as an opportune time to pressure Ukraine over its treatment of opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko.

By Correspondent / May 3, 2012

Kids play trying to push a model of an official ball, or tango, of the Euro 2012 soccer championship at the Olympiysky stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, May 3.

Efrem Lukatsky/AP

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Berlin

It is only a month from now that Ukraine and Poland will host Europe’s greatest sports event, the Euro 2012 soccer championship, but the relations between the political leaders in Kiev and their European counterparts could hardly be worse. The reason for the fallout? Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

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What President Viktor Yanukovich had hoped would be a showcase for Ukraine’s reasonable ambitions to join the European Union has turned into heated diplomatic debate about the democratic shortcomings of his government.

A host of European politicians, from Germany’s President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso have announced in recent days that they are considering boycotting matches in Ukraine in protest of Mrs. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment. On Thursday a spokesman of the EU Commission declared that all 27 commissioners would stay away from any Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine.

“Ukraine wanted to use the European Championships as an advertisement,” says Philipp Missfelder, foreign policy spokesman for the governing Christian Democratic party in Germany. “Now it has turned into a disaster. And it’s the government’s responsibility. They are isolating Ukraine.”

Sentenced to seven years in prison for “criminal abuse” during her tenure as prime minister, Tymoshenko’s trial in October 2011 was criticized by both the European Union and the US as politically motivated and unfair. Now reports suggest that Tymoshenko, who gained international prominence as leader of the “Orange Revolution” in 2004, is unwell and on hunger strike over the conditions of her imprisonment.

In February two German physicians travelled to the prison camp in the city of Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine where Tymoshenko is held and confirmed reports that she was “seriously ill.” Since then, the German government has tried to convince Kiev to let the politician seek treatment in a German hospital. Instead the Ukrainian leadership had her transferred to a Ukrainian clinic – a move that was carried out against her will and caused her to declare a hunger strike, according to Tymoshenko’s daughter, Yevgenia.

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