Photos show former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on ahunger strike, with bruises on her arms and stomach that she sayswere inflicted by prison guards - a charge the governmentdenies. She is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse ofoffice, charges she says are politically motivated. The photos prompted several European leaders and ministers, amongthem the entire Dutch government and the president of the EuropeanCommission, to pledge a boycott of next month's Euro 2012 soccermatches in Ukraine. Germany's Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen urged others tojoin. |
"At the moment I do not think it is feasible for ministers or stateprime ministers to take part as visitors [in Euro 2012] because Ifear this poses the danger of justification of a regime, adictatorial regime," said Roettgen. Other European leaders, including the foreign ministers of Germanyand Sweden, have rejected calls for a boycott. Ukraine analyst Orysia Lutsevych, of the London-based researchgroup Chatham House, says a boycott would hurt all Ukrainians. "I think there could be better ways around sending a signal andputting pressure on the government other than a boycott," saidLutsevych. "By having so many journalists in the country and byhaving so many celebrities in the country we can raise an issue ofhuman rights and democracy in another way." As Ukraine rushes to complete its new stadiums in time for June,the government hopes Euro 2012 will be a showcase for the countrywith up to a million visitors expected.
But a new report is raising concerns about the the conduct of theUkrainian police force. Max Tucker of human-rights group Amnesty International points toCCTV footage posted on the Internet, allegedly showing policebeating a man in a bar before forcing him to hand over $2,500. Tucker says the police service needs urgent reform. "Police are torturing people in order to extract a confession, inorder to kind of extort money or simply because of the ethnicity orsexual orientation of the person that they have in custody," saidTucker. Opinion across Europe appears divided; some argue a Euro 2012boycott would serve to raise awareness of alleged abuses inUkraine, while others say the presence of so many foreignjournalists and visitors will put a spotlight on the country,perhaps leading to change.
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