Photos of an emaciated Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former prime minister of Ukraine, emerged on the internet last week. The graphic images portrayed a weak, supine Tymoshenko as she displayed bruises on her arm and abdomen.
The photos were released a week after the former PM began a hunger strike in protest to alleged prison abuse and forced clinical treatment for a spinal injury, in which guards pushed, shoved and twisted her limbs in order to force her into a treatment clinic.
Now reactions are beginning to filter in regarding Tymoshenko’s strike and the photos of her bruises. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, plans to boycott the Euro 2012 football matches taking place in Ukraine this summer in response to the brutal treatment of the Orange Revolution leader, unless she is released from custody.
Merkel has urged other leading European officials to boycott the games as well. Her response came on the heels of a plea made to the German government by Tymoshenko’s daughter, Eugenia, according to The Guardian. Some officials have already confirmed that they will avoid the games. European Union Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, confirmed she would not attend the games.
It is unclear how supportive Tymoshenko remains of Merkel’s announcement. The Euro 2012 games would help solidify Ukraine’s place on the European map and keep local governmental tensions and corruptions at the front of global headlines, both central goals for Tymoshenko since her rise to international fame in 2004.
Ukraine’s prison service has also reacted to the vivid photographs and Tymoshenko’s pleas for help, arguing that unexplained bruises have appeared on her body before, and that force was necessary in getting her the correct medical treatment.
Force was used in attempting to make Tymoshenko receive treatment for an alleged spinal injury that has prevented Tymoshenko from showing up to a tax evasion trial that could add another five years onto her current seven year sentence. She was convicted of overstepping her capacity as prime minister last year after signing a gas deal with Russia.
Currently, Tymoshenko is awaiting trial for tax evasion. The judge has adjourned the trial until May 21 in the wake of Tymoshenko’s failing health and inability to appear for the hearing. Protestors have been gathering outside of the district court building and many of these activists feel a sense of justice that her trial has been suspended and that authorities have been forced to admit the failing health of the controversial figure.
It remains to be seen how the new scandal surrounding Tymoshenko will affect the Euro 2012 championship events. Regardless, Tymoshenko refuses to be treated in Ukraine for the forseeable future and Ukrainian officials have refused to let her receive proposed treatment in Germany.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons