Ukraine transfers jailed Tymoshenko to hospital
Ukraine on Wednesday moved jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from prison to hospital in a bid to defuse a growing diplomatic crisis that threatens to overshadow the Euro 2012 football.
Ukraine is facing a possible extensive EU boycott of the Euro matches it is co-hosting with Poland over its treatment of Tymoshenko, who was jailed for seven years in October and has been on hunger strike for the last 20 days.
An AFP correspondent saw a motorcade consisting of cars and an ambulance that was later confirmed to contain Tymoshenko drive through the gates of the hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv in the early morning.
"Tymoshenko was transferred from her penal colony to hospital for a course of treatment recommended by an international medical commission," the prisons service said in a statement.
Tymoshenko's family have said she was giving up the hunger strike she started in protest at allegedly being roughly handled by prison guards. There was no immediate confirmation she had resumed taking food.
The prisons service said the former prime minister left the prison in Kharkiv at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and arrived at the hospital, a state establishment run by Ukrainian railways, also in Kharkiv, one hour later.
Kharkiv is one of four Ukrainian cities that will next month jointly host the Euro football with Poland in the biggest showcase for Ukraine since it won independence in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The prisons service said that during her transfer Tymoshenko made no complaint about her health. "According to doctors, the state of her health has not deteriorated in the last days."
Tymoshenko is confirmed to be suffering from a herniated disc in her back but supporters say even before her hunger strike she was extremely frail and unable to walk.
The opposition leader is to be treated by a team led by German doctor Lutz Harms from the Berlin clinic Charite that has closely followed her case.
Harms accompanied Tymoshenko during her transfer and has been confirmed by the authorities as her official doctor, Deputy Health Minister Raisa Moiseyenko told reporters.
Harms, who will be assisted by a Ukrainian team, has brought medication with him and may even live permanently in the hospital, she added.
Tymoshenko had previously demanded to be treated outside Ukraine, fearing that she could be deliberately infected or poisoned in a Ukrainian establishment.
"The medical system depends too much on the authorities," said her lawyer Sergiy Vlasenko. "Why take the risk and give the regime a chance to announce with a smile 'sorry, but there has been a medical error and she has died'."
According to her daughter Yevgenia, Tymoshenko lost 10 kilogrammes while refusing food and it will take up to two weeks to bring her mother fully out of the hunger strike.
Ukraine was on Tuesday was forced to scrap plans to host a regional summit scheduled for later this week after most of the participants pulled out in protest over the treatment of the 2004 Orange Revolution leader.
Amid an escalating diplomatic crisis, all EU commissioners are set to boycott matches hosted by Ukraine in the Euro and Germany has not ruled out such a move for its ministers, in what would be a huge blow to Kiev.
The European Union has expressed concern that the convictions of Tymoshenko and several of her former ministers were politically motivated and noted that the abuse of power charges would never have come to court in an EU state.
Tynoshenko was found guilty of causing losses of $190 million to the state gas firm in agreeing a 10 year contract for gas imports for Russia in 2009 on terms deemed overly advantageous to Moscow.