Germany's foreign minister has warned Ukraine that it is endangering its hopes of joining the European Union by maltreating jailed opposition leader and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a newspaper interview published Wednesday that Ukraine could expect the EU to draw consequences from the government's treatment of Tymoshenko.
"The Ukrainian government must know: The route to Europe leads over a bridge with two posts: democracy and the rule of law," Westerwelle told the mass-circulation newspaper Bild.
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko has long been complaining of acute back pain. Germany has been pushing for her to be sent to Berlin for care after German doctors examined her and determined she needed specialized care.
Westerwelle reiterated that call, saying he was very concerned about her health and that she would be guaranteed good care in a German hospital.
'No time to waste'
Tymoshenko is said to have started a hunger strike on April 20 after claiming that wardens beat her as they were moving her from her Kharkiv prison to a hospital. Photos released to the press appear to show bruising on her arm and stomach.
As a member of the Council of Europe, Ukraine is obliged to observe minimal standards of human rights, Westerwelle pointed out. "That urgency is the order of the day, should be clear to Kyiv," he added.
He also said President Viktor Yanukovych could expect protests from football fans attending the Euro 2012 European football championship in Ukraine, if Tymoshenko still had not received adequate medical care by the time the tournament begins in June.
"Politicians, athletes, the media and fans will not miss the opportunity during the European Championship to make a statement against the abuse of human rights in Ukraine," Westerwelle said.
Numerous German and other European politicians have said they will boycott the tournament over Tymoshenko's treatment.
She was jailed after a controversial trial determined she had abused her power as prime minister. She is serving a seven-year prison sentence and faces a second trial over alleged tax evasion.
ncy/pfd (Reuters, dpa, AFP)