A news article indicating that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was planning a political boycott of Ukraine's matches of the Euro 2012 soccer championships has ruffled feathers in Kyiv.
Ukraine's foreign ministry cautioned Berlin on Monday over threats that German ministers would not attend matches of the upcoming European Championship soccer tournament due to the treatment of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
A recent article on news website Spiegel Online indicated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel planned to advise her cabinet ministers to refrain from attending matches in Ukraine if Tymoshenko isn't released by the time the tournament starts, on June 8.
Oleg Voloshyn, a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, said he hoped the report on Merkel's position was wrong.
"We would not like to think that the political leaders of Germany are capable of reviving the methods of the Cold War and making sport a hostage of politics," he said in an interview with the Interfax news agency.
The tournament is being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland. Germany will be playing all three of their group-stage matches in Ukraine. The final is also being held in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on July 1.
Friedrich hopes to visit
According to Spiegel Online, the only exception to Merkel's political boycott of the tournament would be made for Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, whose portfolio also includes sports.
Friedrich said last week that he intended to attend Germany's Group B game against the Netherlands, which is to be played in Kharkiv, where Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power. However, Friedrich said he would only attend the game if he was allowed to first visit Tymoshenko, who was forcibly taken from jail and moved to a hospital last weekend.
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko, who had long been complaining of acute back pain, says she was beaten by wardens during her removal from the jail. She began a hunger strike on April 20. Photos released to the press appear to show bruising on her body.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, her daughter Yevhenia described her mother's condition as "very weak." She also appealed to Germany for help.
"Save my mother's life before it is too late," she said.
Tymoshenko is facing a second trial on tax evasion charges. On Saturday, the presiding judge postponed it until May 21.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Monday cancelled a planned trip to a summit in Ukraine next month over Tymoshenko's alleged mistreatment. Last week German President Joachim Gauck said he would not be attending the same summit, although Ukrainian officials say Gauck had already declined to come weeks ago.
mz, pfd/ncy (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)