Germany Threatens to Block Ukraine-EU Deal Over Jailed Opposition Leader

Posted May 2nd, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Germany's foreign minister is threatening to block a political and trade deal between Ukraine and the European Union if jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is not given adequate health care.

Guido Westerwelle said on German television Wednesday that Germany cannot ratify an “association agreement” between the EU and Ukraine if Kiev does not abide by the rule of law. The agreement is one in a series of steps designed to deepen Ukraine's political and economic association with the European Union.

Westerwelle refused to say whether Germany would refrain from participating in the Euro 2012 football tournament to be held in Ukraine starting in June. Austria and the Netherlands on Wednesday joined European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso in saying they will not attend if Ms. Tymoshenko's conditions do not improve.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry this week called the boycotts “Cold War tactics” and “artificial manipulation.”

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

Czech President Vaclav Klaus and German President Joachim Gauck have both announced they will not attend a Yalta summit of Central European heads of state scheduled for May 11 and 12.

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, Yevgenia, 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.

1. SOUNDBITE: (German) Guido Westerwelle, German Foreign Minister

“We see no reason for ongoing discussions about a boycott. We want to help Yulia Tymoshenko and others and we don't want to lose our influence to change the situation there.”