The daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, has called on David Cameron and British officials to rethink their boycott of England's football quarter-final against Italy in Kiev tomorrow night.
Eugenia Tymoshenko, who had previously backed the boycott, said in a television interview yesterday that it would be more productive for British politicians to come to Kiev and put pressure on the President, Viktor Yanukovych. The Ukrainian government also blasted the boycott yesterday, as Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshin told The Independent that the move was "pointless and ineffective".
Mr Yanukovych has come under sustained criticism from EU nations for the jailing of Ms Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, on charges that most believe to be politically motivated, and many countries with teams competing in Euro 2012 have announced a boycott of the Ukrainian part of the tournament. No official more senior than the British ambassador to Ukraine has attended an England match so far because of concerns over the Tymoshenko case and rule of law in Ukraine, and British government sources have confirmed that the ministerial boycott extends to Sunday's quarter-final with Italy.
Eugenia Tymoshenko said that it would be better for Mr Cameron to come to Ukraine and state his concerns personally to Mr Yanukovych. "He could say something to Yanukovych's face which will be stronger than just saying they won't come," she said. "Sport should be sport and, of course, if they come to cheer together with the British fans in the fan zone, in the stadium, and at the same time visit political prisoners or make a statement about this to Yanukovych, it would be even maybe much stronger."
Television cameras have shown Mr Yanukovych standing alone with his cabinet at games involving Ukraine's team, and it will be embarrassing for him if in the final he is not joined by foreign leaders. If England make it through the Italy game, their semi-final will be in Poland, and British officials will attend. It is unclear whether David Cameron or government ministers would attend the final, which is in Kiev, should England make it. The nightmare scenario for the Ukrainian government would be Germany making the final, as it is rumoured that Chancellor Angela Merkel would sit with German fans rather than in the VIP box.
German MEP Rebecca Harms, who visited Ms Tymoshenko in jail last week after unveiling a banner in support of her during Germany's group stage game with the Netherlands, also criticised the boycott. She said it was better to come to Ukraine and make a statement rather than "hide behind a boycott".
Mr Voloshin said the boycott had not worked. "The government of Ukraine knows the British position on Tymoshenko and a boycott is not going to achieve anything, so we should just allow this to be a festival of football and not confuse it with politics," he said.Reuse content