Ukraine’s Tymoshenko Refuses to End Hunger Strike

Posted November 1st, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is refusing to end a hunger strike she began this week to protest alleged widespread vote irregularities in Sunday's parliamentary polls, which have been described by U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “a step backward” for the nation's democracy.

Ms. Tymoshenko — in custody at a hospital in northeastern Ukraine — called election tallies favoring the ruling party of political arch-foe President Viktor Yanukovych “a total falsification.” Her refusal to eat was relayed by opposition party leaders outside the hospital in Kharkiv, and amplified in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

With 99 percent of the vote counted Thursday, Ukrainian media reports show the president's ruling party ahead with just over 30 percent of the vote. Ms.Tymoshenko's United Opposition Fatherland party was running second with 25.4 percent.

Sunday's elections spawned a firestorm of protests from international observers who found widespread campaign irregularities, including evidence the ruling party used state funds to finance campaign activities. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also accused the ruling party of restricting the free low of campaign information.

The 51-year-old Ms. Tymoshenko was not allowed to vote Sunday. She was charged last year with abuse of the office of prime minister for her approval of a 2009 natural gas imports deal with Russia. She was found guilty and is serving a seven-year prison term that has drawn protests from a host of Western governments and human rights organizations.

Earlier this week the United States renewed charges that the Tymoshenko conviction was politically motivated and called on the government of Viktor Yanukovych to put an end to what it said was the selective prosecution of political opponents.