German captain Philipp Lahm criticizes Ukraine | News | DW | 05.05.2012
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German captain Philipp Lahm criticizes Ukraine

National captain Philipp Lahm has aired his personal concerns about developments in Ukraine ahead of the Euro 2012 competition in an interview. Lahm said the situation there bore no relation to his idea of democracy.

Bayern Munich and Germany captain Philipp Lahm clearly criticized the Ukrainian government and its handling of opposition figurehead Yulia Tymoshenko in an interview to be published in full in the Spiegel magazine on Sunday evening. The publication released snippets of its interview ahead of time on its online portal Saturday.

"I cannot see my own concepts of democracy, fundamental rights, human rights, or of questions like personal and press freedom, reflected in the current political situation in Ukraine," Lahm told Spiegel. "When I see how the regime is treating Yulia Tymoshenko, then that has nothing to do with my understanding of democracy."

While the German Football Association (DFB) has said it intends to compete at Euro 2012 next month, several German and European politicians have voiced similar concerns about the imprisoned Tymoshenko - some of them mooting a political boycott of the games in Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland are co-hosting the tournament, but all three of Germany's group-phase games will be played in Ukraine, as will the final on July 1.

UEFA President Michel Platini answers questions during a meeting with the press

Lahm called on UEFA boss Platini to take a stand as well

The 28-year-old defender also said he expects Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body UEFA, to substantively address the behavior of the authorities in Kyiv before the tournament.

"I think [Platini] should make his position clear. And I'm eager to hear what he has to say," Lahm said.

No escaping politics

Soccer's governing bodies have so far sought to distance themselves from the political dispute, invoking the common sporting ideal of political neutrality. For Lahm, such a goal is untenable in the modern world.

"Football has become too large to remain untainted by such things. When I read the initial reports about Tymoshenko's poor health, I already suspected the direction things might go," Lahm said.

Tymoshenko is suffering from back pain and said in April that she had been beaten by prison guards trying to forcibly take her to a Ukrainian hospital. She had previously been examined by German doctors who said that she needed specialized treatment she could not receive in jail. In the meantime, a deal has been struck whereby a Berlin-based physician will treat her in a Ukrainian hospital.

Asked whether he would shake the hand of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko's arch rival, in the event that Germany won the final in Kyiv, Lahm said: "I'd have to seriously think about that. But as far as I know, only UEFA officials will take part in the winner's ceremony in Kyiv."

Lahm is known for his willingness to speak his mind in public, as evidenced by a number of controversial media interviews over the years and a juicy biography in which he dished the dirt on some of his past coaches.