Ukraine 'should be stripped of Euro football final'

Polish opposition leader enters row over Tymoshenko's treatment

The leader of Poland's main opposition party yesterday called for the final of the Euro 2012 football tournament to be moved from Kiev to Warsaw in protest against the Ukrainian authorities' alleged mistreatment of the jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, wrote that a failure to move the match would "amount to silent acquiescence to the further undemocratic activities of the Ukrainian government".

He added: "Flagrant human rights violations in Ukraine, as symbolised by the situation of Yulia Tymoshenko, are the effect of the disadvantageous political changes we are observing in Ukraine."

Mr Kaczynski's dramatic intervention came amid growing warnings that European political leaders could boycott the tournament, which will be staged in Poland and Ukraine from next month.

It emerged on Friday that Ms Tymoshenko has agreed to be treated by doctors in a Ukrainian hospital, in a small step towards the resolution of a situation that has embarrassed the country and threatened to ruin its hosting of the Euro 2012 tournament.

Ms Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, was jailed for seven years last autumn for alleged abuse of office, in a case that many have seen as political revenge against her by supporters of the current President, Viktor Yanukovych. She is being held in prison in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, and her lawyers say she is ill with a spine condition.

She has been on hunger strike for two weeks. Photographs have surfaced of her looking weak and frail, with bruises on her arms and stomach, which she says were caused by prison guards handling her roughly and punching her in the stomach when she resisted. Ukrainian officials have suggested that the bruises were caused when the 51-year-old "bumped into blunt objects", and the country's chief prosecutor claims that she may have inflicted the injuries on herself. Until yesterday, she has refused to be treated by Ukrainian hospital doctors, whom she says she cannot trust.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has demanded that Ukraine release her for treatment in a German hospital. A spokesman said last week that unless there were significant improvements in the case, Ms Merkel would boycott the Ukrainian section of Euro 2012. Germany, like England, plays its group games in Ukraine, and the team will play Holland in Kharkiv, the city where Ms Tymoshenko is in prison.

The Russian leader Vladimir Putin has also said Ms Tymoshenko could be treated in a clinic in his country, though he disapproved of a boycott. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and other European leaders have also said they will not attend the tournament in protest at Ms Tymoshenko's treatment.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, last week hinted that he could join the boycott. A Foreign Office source last night said the suggestion was "under active consideration". The source added: "This has not just leapt up in the last week; the situation has been under review for some time because of the situation [in Ukraine]. Ministers would prefer a resolution, but if it does not improve, they will probably stay at home."

Comments