Euro Cup boycott threats grow over jailed Ukraine politician

The failing health of jailed Ukraine opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko has led European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Dutch foreign minister to consider boycotting the Euro Cup 2012 soccer tournament, which is being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland and begins June 8.
This Ukrainian woman protests the treatment of jailed opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, whose incarceration has prompted some European leaders to consider boycotting the 2012 Euro Cup soccer tournament, which will be co-hosted by Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

The failing health of jailed Ukraine opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko has led a number of European leaders to consider boycotting the Euro Cup 2012 soccer tournament, which is being co-hosted by Ukraine and begins June 8.

Reacting to recent photos and reports that suggest Tymoshenko had been beaten in jail and denied access to a proper doctor, Netherlands Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told the BBC on May 3 his government would boycott the sports event unless her condition improves.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding had previously announced they will not attend the tournament, which runs June 8-July 1, and which attracts an audience of hundreds of millions.

Euro Cup 2012 will feature matches in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Lviv, Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, which will host the tournament final on July 1. Games will also be played in the Polish cities of Warsaw, Gdansk, Posnan, Wroclaw and Kracow.

In reaction to the reported treatment of Tymoshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked of boycotting the tournament and delaying a key trade agreement with Ukraine.

Corruption charges

A successful entrepreneur, Tymoshenko rose to political prominence in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004 and became prime minister in 2005. She lost the post in 2005, but won it again in a general election in 2007.

She held the post until the 2010 general election, when Ukraine elected the Party of Regions, headed by Victor Yanukovych. Tymoshenko contested the election result, saying the voting had been "rigged."

In 2010, a number of criminal cases were opened against Tymoshenko, alleging bribery and corruption during her time in office. One charge alleged bribery in the handling of a contract on natural gas imports signed with Russia in 2009.

On Oct. 11, 2011, a Ukrainian court found Tymoshenko guilty of abuse of power and sentenced her to seven years in prison.

Tymoshenko, along with a number of European leaders, maintain that the trial was politically motivated and an act of revenge by Yanukovych. She has protested by going on a hunger strike.

Tymoshenko’s daughter, Eugenia, has said that her mother told her prison guards beat her so violently that she feared she would die. Ukrainian authorities have denied this is the case.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has criticized the calls for a Euro Cup boycott, saying the tournament "is not the property of this or that politician."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sounded a similar note, saying, "I stick to the principle professed and supported by the International Olympic Committee – sport is outside politics."