Merkel shuns German soccer matches in Ukraine | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.06.2012
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Merkel shuns German soccer matches in Ukraine

Chancellor Angela Merkel is a regular feature in the stands at Germany's international soccer matches, but she will not attend any of the country's first round matches in Ukraine at the 2012 European Championships.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has not decided if she will attend any of the EURO 2012 matches in person, but she will not one of Germany's first round matches. "For scheduling reasons, it won't be possible," spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday.

Germany's three Group B matches all take place in Ukraine, which is co-hosting the tournament that started Friday with Poland. Merkel isn't the only senior German politician to shun the first round: Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who is also responsible for the sports sector, also said he does not need to attend every game.

"If the German team is in the finals, I'll be there to watch in Kiev," he said.

On the couch

An avid soccer fan, Merkel has said in the past that she enjoys being in a stadium when the national team plays. But the chancellor will have to resort to watching the team on TV.

Merkel cheering during the Women's World Cup

Merkel regularly appears in the stands during Germany matches

Merkel's absence is seen as an expression of her disapproval of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who used his country's judiciary to imprison a string of political opponents, including opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, most of them jailed under degrading conditions.

The international community was outraged at Ukrainian authorities' refusal to provide medical aid to the opposition leader for a painful slipped disc. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, maintained that she was assaulted by prison guards.

Human rights concerns

German President Joachim Gauck cancelled a visit to Ukraine for the same reason due to Tymoshenko's imprisonment. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko is being treated in Kharkiv by doctors flown in from Germany, in a hospital not far from the city's Euro 2012 stadium. Not a single German politician wants to shake the Ukrainian president's hand when Germany plays the Netherlands there on June 13.

Mykola Katerynchuk said that puts him and other Ukrainian opposition politicians in a difficult spot. Yanukovych rules with an iron fist and the international community turns up its nose.

"Sports and politics are two different matters," he told DW. "People who like soccer should come to the games. You shouldn't confuse the Ukrainian government with the Ukrainian people."

Katerynchuk said he sides with the jailed opposition leader but would like to see his country reflected in a good light during the soccer tournament.

Author: Nina Werkhäuser/ db
Editor: Sean Sinico

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