Ukraine announced it would investigate charges that guards beat former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Politicians in Europe call for boycotting the 2012 European Championships unless Kyiv gets in line.
As Western governments increased their criticism of Ukraine, the government in Kyiv announced an investigation into charges of abuse by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko, who started a hunger strike a week ago and refused treatment at a state hospital this week before being transferred back to jail, claimed she was punched in the stomach and had her arms twisted by prison guards.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced the inquiry on Thursday, saying he had ordered Attorney General Viktor Pshonka to look into Tymoshenko's claims that she had been bruised. Prison officials denied mistreating the 51-year-old politician.
"I hope to get a concrete answer soon, but nothing is proved" Yanukovych told reporters.
Politicians mull EURO boycott
Yanukovych announcement came after German President Joachim Gauck said he would not visit Ukraine next month and opposition politicians in Germany urged their government to boycott the Euro 2012 soccer championship Ukraine will host jointly with Poland in June.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Thursday that he would find it difficult to watch any of Germany's three EURO 2012 first round matches in Ukraine knowing that "a few kilometers away, somebody is not being treated in line with the rules that we have given each other in the world of civilized nations."
The European Union's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding also canceled plans to attend the Euro 2012's opening match in protest of the human rights situation in Ukraine, according to her office in Brussels.
"Politicians cannot tolerate human rights violations," Reding told the German newspaper Bild.
Berlin offers medical treatment
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said Thursday that she is "deeply preoccupied" by what is happening to Tymoshenko and said that the Ukrainian government needed to examine her complaints. Ashton also requested that an EU ambassador in Ukraine be permitted to visit Tymoshenko.
"I am extremely concerned about the reports that Yulia Tymoshenko was beaten up in prison," Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a statement on Thursday. "It is in the interest of the Ukrainian government to make sure these claims are investigated in a credible and transparent manner and, if necessary, prosecuted."
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges, which she had denied, of abuse of power during negotiations about gas supplies with Russia. The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.
Dr. Karl Max Einhaepl, one of two German doctors who examined Tymoshenko two weeks ago, told Reuters Television that Tymoshenko was suffering chronic pain from a slipped disc. He added that the problem needed to be addressed, but that the former prime minister did not trust treatment provided by Ukrainian doctors.
The German government offered to treat her in Germany, but Kyiv said it would not permit her to leave the country for treatment fearing she may not return to finish serving her sentence.
sms/slk (AP, AFP, DPA, Reuters)