Former Ukraine PM Yulia Tymoshenko to end hunger strike

Yevgenia Tymoshenko has announced her mother, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is to end her hunger strike after nineteen days. Yulia's lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, cited "what is happening in the country and what is happening to her in prison" as reasons for her commencing her fast.

The politician is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office arising from a gas deal with Russia while she was Prime Minister. She has accused jail guards of assaulting her while transporting her to a hospital against her will to get treatment for back pain which she has reportedly been experiencing for months. In the incident, Vlasenko said Tymoshenko "naturally got scared, began resisting, after which she received a punch in the stomach and passed out", referring to a bruise which remains present on her body.

Adherents of Tymoshenko have publicised pictures showing bruising on the politician's body. Corrections officers have refuted claims of their responsibility. Kharkiv regional prosecutor, Henadiy Tyurin, confirmed "she was picked up, carried to the car and taken to the hospital" but insisted: "According to the law ... the prison service has the right to use physical measures".

Tymoshenko was scheduled to appear in a fresh trial for a tax evasion charge the day before she was taken to hospital. In theory, the hearing could have her imprisonment extended to the year 2023. The trial has been postponed to May 21. She does not accept she broke the law as the boss of a Ukrainian gas company in the 1990s.

Tymoshenko has refused to accept medical treatment from Ukrainian doctors for her back problems, but has been given permission to travel from her current prison in Kharkiv to a hospital in the same city yesterday. There she is to be assisted by German doctor Lutz Harms, who is to "begin bringing [her] out of her hunger strike", Yevgenia explained. At the time of her going on hunger strike, Vlasenko spoke of Tymoshenko not having the ability to leave her own bed.

Yevgenia described how her mother "appears to have lost 10kg [22 lbs], her temperature has dropped significantly and she may pass out any minute now". Due to the hunger strike, it was considered "impossible to start treatment immediately", she said.

In the hours prior to this announcement, the Ukrainian government postponed a European summit scheduled for May 11-12 in the city of Yalta due to what the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as a "connection with the fact that a number of European leaders [being] unable to take part in the Yalta summit for different reasons". At least ten leaders, including the presidents of the Czech Republic, Romania, Austria and Germany, reportedly reversed their decisions to appear at the summit in relation to the treatment of Tymoshenko.

Ukrainian UEFA Euro 2012 football matches scheduled for June may also be boycotted by leaders, according to BBC News Online. The European Commission has stated its commissioners will refuse to attend Ukraine-hosted Euro 2012 matches. The German government has clarified that what happens to Tymoshenko will influence whether or not its representatives will appear at the matches.

Tymoshenko denies abuse of office charges, believing them to be part of a campaign by President Viktor Yanukovych to prohibit her from politics. The European Union and the United States strongly criticised the conviction as they believed it is politically influenced.

In the 2010 presidential elections, she was narrowly beaten by Yanukovych. Tymoshenko was also the leader of the Orange Revolution, which removed power from Yanukovych after he won the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election amid electoral fraud.

In a letter, Tymoshenko appealed to Europe to persist in pressuring Yanukovych because Ukrainian citizens "cannot fight [Yanukovych's government] on their own" and "Ukraine may simply never have fair elections again", she claimed. She had earlier spoke of her belief that Yanukovych was vengeful.

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