Government yet to make decision on Euro 2012 boycott

 

No decision has been taken on whether to boycott Euro 2012 games in Ukraine in protest at the treatment of the country's former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, the Foreign Office said tonight.

The British Government is considering its options after a number of European politicians, including EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, said they will not go to Ukraine for the football tournament.

Earlier, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said he had not ruled out joining a boycott of England's matches in protest at the treatment of Ms Tymoshenko.

She was jailed last year for abusing her office after losing a bitter battle for the presidency against Viktor Yanukovych but the charge was dismissed in most European capitals as politically motivated.

Now fears are growing for her condition on hunger strike in the wake of Kiev's refusal of an offer from Berlin of medical treatment in Germany.

Today's statement by the Foreign Office follows a Dutch threat to boycott the tournament unless there is evidence of better treatment for Ms Tymoshenko in prison. Austria and Germany are planning to do the same.

Mr Barroso has said he will not attend the Euro 2012 opening ceremony in Kiev on June next month unless human rights conditions in Ukraine improve.

England are playing all three group matches in Ukraine but today the Foreign Office said no decision had been taken on whether ministers would attend.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are keeping the situation under review in consultation with EU partners but no decision has yet been taken on ministerial attendance."

Mr Robertson initially planned to go to at least one of the games but that may now change.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International today claimed Euro 2012 is being jeopardised by a "criminal" police force in Ukraine where police "have tortured people in an attempt to extort money, extract a confession, or simply because of the victims' sexuality or ethnic origin".

Its European director, John Dalhuisen, said: "The Ukrainian government must take action now to stop widespread police criminality.

"Failure to do so will encourage them to continue acting as a law unto themselves and put Euro 2012 fans in danger from a force that is out of control."

Meanwhile, five countries - Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic, have cancelled plans to join a summit of Central and East European leaders in Yalta, Ukraine, next week.

The growing protest has infuriated the Kiev leadership, with Ukraine's president warning that a western boycott of the prestigious football championship could see his country questioning its current steady steps towards closer trade and cooperation ties with the EU.

PA

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