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Report: Merkel urges treatment for Tymoshenko

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 8:16 am •  Published: May 2, 2012

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Ukraine on Thursday to allow jailed ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko "proper treatment" for her ailments, reiterating that she could come to Germany for medical care.

Tymoshenko, 51, is on a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment in a Ukraine prison where she is serving a seven-year sentence on charges of abusing her powers when she was prime minister in a case the West has called politically motivated. She claims guards punched her and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for debilitating back pain.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is a fierce rival of Tymoshenko, but government officials have denied any claims of bias in the case.

German doctors have examined Tymoshenko in Ukraine and say she is in urgent need of specialized care.

Merkel told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper Thursday that she had not yet decided whether to boycott Euro 2012 football games played in Ukraine to protest Tymoshenko's treatment as others have announced, and that her priority now is the former leader's health.

"Much more important than my travel plans is that we must now do everything possible to see that Yulia Tymoshenko gets the proper treatment for her medical problems as soon as possible," she was quoted as saying.

"The German government has been working on this for weeks and our offer stands for her to receive this medical treatment in Germany."

German President Joachim Gauck has already said he would boycott Ukrainian games of the June 8-July 1 Euro 2012 tournament, which is being co-hosted with Poland. Other officials who have said they will not attend include European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and the governments of Austria and Belgium said Wednesday that they would also join the boycott.

Ukraine was hoping the European football championship would be a chance to showcase the country and boost its ties with the European Union.

In a visit Thursday to Lithuania, U.S. Senator John McCain joined the chorus calling for Tymoshenko to receive urgent medical care.

McCain also said the Ukraine's leadership cannot expect closer relations with Europe while it persecutes political opponents and fails to hold free and fair elections.

"The message needs to be clear and sent now by the EU to the Ukrainian government," he said, suggesting that international observers could go to Ukraine and arrange for Tymoshenko to leave.


Gary Peach in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.


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