Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former prime minister of Ukraine, began her hunger strike on April 20 in the eastern city of Kharkiv. The strike began as a protest against the brutal treatment she received in prison, reporting that she had been coerced into medical treatment for a spinal injury and bruised by prison guards. Surprising photos of the pallid Tymoshenko, with bruises on her arm and torso, flooded the internet in conjunction with the beginning of the strike.
This Tuesday, Tymoshenko’s daughter, Yevgenia, announced that the imprisoned politician would end her hunger strike under the care of a German physician, Lutz Harms, according to the National Post. This news comes only a couple days after Tymoshenko had insisted she would continue the hunger strike regardless of the consequences, spurring on fears for the former prime minister’s life.
Other European powers have taken a strong stance on the treatment of the politician in recent weeks, most prominently German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has stated she will not attend any of the German matches set to take place in Ukraine during the Euro Cup 2012 events this coming summer, unless proper care is provided for Tymoshenko.
Some of the most prominent leaders in the eurozone have joined Merkel in her boycotting of the events, including Czech President Vaclav Klaus and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, according to the Budapest Times. The sporting events were originally intended to herald in an era of greater inclusion of Ukraine within the European Union.
Tymoshenko’s determined stance has complicated that original hope and put Ukraine in the spotlight for general incursions on democratic processes and human rights issues. Tymoshenko was originally imprisoned for abuse of power after signing a deal with Russia for gas rights. She is also facing charges of tax evasion, a trial which was delayed on April 28 in the wake of the fallen leader’s failing health.
The tax evasion charges could bring another 12 years onto her current seven year sentence. Tymoshenko stands firm that her current conviction and treatment in prison are directly related to a plot of revenge directed by the presiding president, Viktor Yanukovych, a long-time political rival. According to the BBC, Yanukovich had originally been elected through a rigged election, but had fairly won his current seat in 2010 in a fresh election against Tymoshenko.
While Tymoshenko’s hunger strike has not helped Ukraine’s position within the European Union, it has certainly put the country on the map for social unrest and general demands for democratic processes. Russia has faced equal scrutiny in the current political climate as protesters retaliated against the inauguration of Vladimir Putin for his third presidential term over the weekend.
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