Ukraine Calls Boycotts of Euro Football Tournament ‘Cold War Tactic’

Posted April 30th, 2012 at 1:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Ukraine has characterized as “Cold War tactics” a move by top European Union officials to boycott events in Ukraine in protest of the imprisonment and treatment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Voloshin says he hopes reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will skip the Euro 2012 football (soccer) matches hosted by Ukraine were no more than press speculation. He urged Germany not to revert to Cold War methods of holding sports hostage to politics. Voloshin also called news of a possible boycott “artificial manipulation.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says he will follow the example of EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who said she will skip the ceremonial kick-offs.

Ukraine and Poland are co-hosting Europe's most important football championship for national teams, from June 8 until July 1.

Also Monday, Czech President Vaclav Klaus canceled his visit to the summit of Central European heads of state scheduled for May 11 and 12 in Yalta. He is the second president to refuse to go to Ukraine for the summit, after German President Joachim Gauck.

Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last year on charges of abuse of office in a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She is now standing trial on tax evasion charges that could extend her prison time to 12 years. Ms. Tymoshenko denies the charges and says they are part of a campaign by President Viktor Yanukovich to remove his strongest political rival.

She has been on a hunger strike for more than a week, after she said she was beaten by prison guards. German doctors diagnosed Ms. Tymoshenko last week with back problems that they say cannot be treated in Ukraine, but the Kyiv government has refused appeals to allow her to leave.

Ms. Tymoshenko's daughter, Yulia, told reporters in Prague Monday that her mother's health is deteriorating and called for European governments to keep up the pressure. She said she hopes the Ukraine government will take action so her mother will stop her hunger strike. The government has threatened to force-feed Ms. Tymoshenko if necessary.