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

Posted April 30th, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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Ukraine has characterized as “Cold War tactics” a movement 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 Monday said 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.

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

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also warned that she may boycott all Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine and expects her ministers to do the same.

Ukraine now faces more potential boycotts by European politicians.

The tournament, Europe's most important football championship for national teams, is being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine from June 8 until July 1.

Also Monday, Czech President Vaclav Klaus cancelled his visit to the summit of Central European heads of state scheduled for May 11 and 12 in Yalta.

Mr. Klaus 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.