Ukraine's hospitalized ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko has been visited by a foreign leader for the first time since her jailing. Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite warned that trust in Ukraine was "diminishing."
The Lithuanian leader, a former EU commissioner, drove to Kharkiv hospital, where Tymoshenko is being treated for back pain and the effects from her recent hunger strike, before flying to Kyiv to visit Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych.
Grybauskaite, in a statement released after her hospital visit, said the Ukranian administration's transfer of Tymoshenko from jail to the hospital for treatment by German doctors - after international pressure - was a "positive sign."
But, she also warned that "Europe's trust in Ukraine is diminishing" because of the seven-year jail term imposed last October on Tymoshenko on charges that she allegedly abused power while premier because of a natural gas import deal signed with Russia.
Grybauskaite said there a risk of "this snowball of distrust turning into an avalanche." Although Tymoshenko seemed content with treatment, she was under constant video surveillance inside the clinic, Grybauskaite said.
The Interfax news agency quoted Lithuania's Grybauskaite as saying Ukraine would also be judged by its treatment of other members of Ukraine's opposition.
Yanukovych and Tymoshenko are archrivals in the former Soviet republic, which next month is due to host the Euro 2012 soccer championship.
Yalta summit canceled
This week Ukraine cancelled a regional summit planned to be held in the Ukrainian resort of Yalta after numerous European leaders said they would boycott the event in protest at the Tymoshenko affair.
Several of them have also threatened to avoid Ukraine during next month's football tournament, which it is to co-host with Poland. Officials in numerous European countries have threatened to follow suit.
Yanukovych has repeatedly stated that he believes Tymoshenko had been fairly convicted and that her incarceration is humane.
Tymoshenko, a former figurehead in Ukraine's so-called Orange Revolution of 2004, claims that Yanukovych orchestrated her jailing to get her out of the way ahead of parliamentary elections due in Ukraine next October.
ipj/ccp (AP, AFP, dpa)