The health ministry in Ukraine has issued a statement saying former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is fit enough to leave a civilian hospital and return to prison. She spent nine months undergoing back treatment.
Ukraine's health ministry announced on Friday that a medical commission "has concluded that the patient Y. Tymoshenko no longer needs further treatment or rehabilitation in hospital," apparently paving the way to return the opposition politician to a prison cell.
Yulila Tymoshenko was receiving treatment from Ukrainian and German doctors after leaving a Kharkiv prison in May last year with acute back pain stemming from a herniated disc.
The former prime minister, a key figure in Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" of 2004, was convicted of abuse of power in 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison. The court ruled that she had signed gas deals with Russia that disadvantaged Ukraine for personal gain; her legal team dismissed the charges as a government-backed attempt to sideline the political opposition.
Tymoshenko faces separate charges of fraud and tax evasion. She was the main political rival to President Viktor Yanukovych for years.
Her imprisonment prompted criticism from the European Union, which is seeking a new political association and free trade deal with Ukraine. An EU-Ukraine summit is set to take place next week debating the issue, with European leaders hinting at some of the sticking points ahead of time on Friday.
"Ukraine needs to implement some key reforms before the agreement can be signed, opening up a new era in our relations," EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wrote in a joint editorial given to the German dpa news agency for publication.
"We are confident that in the coming summit … the Ukrainian leaders will show their determination to achieve these goals in time," the European duo said, adding that "the key is in Ukraine's hand."
msh/tm (AFP, dpa)