Tymoshenko's health failing in Ukraine prison

Associated Press Modified: April 27, 2012 at 11:31 am •  Published: April 27, 2012
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Yulia Tymoshenko, the braided darling of Ukraine's Orange Revolution who went on to be prime minister, is wasting away in prison — weakened from a hunger strike, bruised from prison beatings and afraid she will be force-fed by her political foes, her family said Friday.

Western concern about Tymoshenko has soared since she launched a hunger strike a week ago to protest alleged prison abuse. She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while taking her to a hospital against her will to be treated for debilitating back pain.

The opposition leader's party claimed that a string of bombings Friday in eastern Ukraine that authorities blamed on terrorists may have been orchestrated by the government to deflect attention from her plight.

It is a dramatic reversal for a woman who became a global icon of democratic change during Ukraine's 2004 mass rallies against a stolen presidential election, in which she mesmerized her nation with ringing speeches from a frozen Kiev square as thousands of protesters huddled in a tent village.

Tymoshenko appears pallid and worn-out in photos of her lying in prison taken by Ukraine's top human rights official — a shadow of the glamorous figure who faced crowds in haute-couture gowns and golden braids. The pictures by Nina Karpachova show blotches on Tymoshenko's abdomen, lower arm and abdomen.

Her daughter told The Associated Press that her health was failing rapidly.

"After the attack, she was in intense pain," Eugenia Tymoshenko said in a telephone interview. "She is very weak, she hasn't eaten for seven days, only drinking water. Prison officials threaten that they will force-feed her."

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers in a Russian energy deal. The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.

Oleksandr Tymoshenko, the jailed opposition leader's husband, told the AP in the Czech capital of Prague — where he has been granted asylum — that he believes the Ukrainian government is slowly killing his wife.

"Everything that has been happening to Yulia Tymoshenko is a rehearsal of her physical destruction — a murder that the authorities have been planning to carry out since the beginning of repression against her."

Four explosions rocked the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk on Friday, injuring 27 people, including nine teenagers. The government blamed terrorism — but the Tymoshenko camp suspects a government-orchestrated diversion tactic.

Deputy parliament speaker Mykola Tymenko, a member of Tymoshenko's party, said he "does not rule out" that senior government members in President Viktor Yanukovych's government were involved in organizing the blasts.

The president's office declined to comment on the opposition charges.

In Berlin, the head of Berlin's renowned Charite hospital said it is "unlikely" that Ukraine will be able to successfully treat Tymoshenko because the hospital where she is being taken does not have the expertise to carry out the complex procedure. Karl Einhaeupl and his team inspected the Kharkiv facility earlier this month.

Tymoshenko has suffered severe back pain since October, but she refuses treatment in Ukraine because "she does not trust the Ukrainian medical system" and fears she will be deliberately infected, Einhaeupl told reporters.

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