British ministers will boycott the opening matches of the Euro 2012 football tournament in protest at the civil rights record of co-host Ukraine, William Hague announced, following the lead of other European governments.
But the Foreign Secretary's ban on ministers and officials going to watch the contest applies only to the opening rounds, when England will play qualifying matches against France, Sweden and the host nation – with expectations of them getting through to later rounds at a comparative low.
A Foreign Office statement said: "We are keeping attendance at later stages of the tournament under review in the light of ministers' busy schedules ahead of the Olympics and widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine."
The German and French governments had already decided to boycott the games in Ukraine because of concern over the treatment of Yulia Tymoshenko. A former Prime Minister, she was a candidate in the 2010 presidential election, but lost to Viktor Yanukovych and was sentenced to seven years in prison after what her supporters described as a show trial. She went on hunger strike in April.
"There are serious problems in Ukraine – I think everyone is well familiar with those problems," Mr Hague said. "I hope for our team it's a great sporting event but of course we don't want people to understand that as giving political support to some things that have been happening in Ukraine that we don't agree with."Reuse content