14 May 2012

Foreign ministers debate Euro 2012 football boycott

EU foreign ministers under pressure to boycott the Euro 2012 football championships are meeting in Brussels after Kiev threatened to try former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for murder.

Foreign ministers debate Euro 2012 football boycott

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has so far refused German government demands and political pressure to release Ms Tymoshenko from jail so she can be treated by overseas doctors following a hunger strike. Mr Yanukovych was forced to cancel a summit in Yalta last week when 13 of 20 heads of state or government refused to attend.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite (photo, left), who visited Ms Tymoshenko on Friday, described her “in good condition, considering”. She has been on hunger strike since last month, and she claims she has been beaten and tortured while in jail.

Germany’s delegation is expected to clash on Monday with Poland, co-host of the tournament with Ukraine, when ministers meet in Brussels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already described Mr Yanukovych as a “dictator”, while Polish media have attacked Berlin, reminding readers of the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Poland recalls Nazi Germany

“In 1941 the German administration forced naked Ukrainian girls into goods wagons bound for Germany. In the 21st century, German customs officials strip Ukrainian workers naked and take their things away,” said the daily Segodnya.

“Germany wants to establish its rules and dictate its will on today’s Ukraine,” the newspaper continued.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, anxious to avoid an EU boycott of Euro 2012, proposed transferring the Euro 2012 final to Warsaw.

Murder changes

Ms Tymoshenko is serving seven years on charges some in the EU and US criticise as politically motivated. Her family said she has been beaten and tortured while on a three-week hunger strike.

The Ukrainian state prosecutor’s office said it would announce murder charges against Ms Tymoshenko within two weeks, prior to Euro 2012, linked to the death of a Ukrainian businessman in 1996.

The UK’s coalition government has not decided whether the England team will play its opening games in Ukraine but fears making the Ukraine a European outcast.