Austria, Belgium to boycott Ukraine's Euro matches

AP News

5/2/2012 12:51:47 PM - AP News

Two more European governments on Wednesday joined other dignitaries planning to boycott Euro 2012 football games played in Ukraine to protest the nation's treatment of jailed ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said his government made the decision as "our sign of solidarity" with Tymoshenko. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called on the Ukraine government to respect all of her rights, including medical care and to receive visits.

"This applies not only to Yulia Tymoshenko but to all other prisoners, including members of her former government," Reynders said in a statement.

The two government join other officials in condemning Ukraine over Tymoshenko's situation.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has already said he would not go to Ukraine during the June 8-July 1 tournament, which is being co-hosted with Poland, unless the human rights situation there swiftly improves. EU Justice Commissioner Vivian Reding is skipping the opening ceremonies, and Germany's chancellor is reportedly considering a boycott by her government.

Tymoshenko, 51, is serving a seven-year jail sentence in a case the West has called politically motivated. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is a fierce rival of Tymoshenko, but government officials have denied any claims of bias in the case. She is on a hunger strike to protest alleged abuse in an Ukraine prison.

While critical of Ukraine's leadership, other governments still have not made a decision on whether to attend the Ukraine leg, as they wait to see whether Kiev will relent.

In the Netherlands, party leaders representing a majority in Dutch parliament said the country's politicians and members of the royal house should avoid going to Ukraine during the championships unless there is a swift improvement in the human rights situation there.

However, Dutch Sports Minister Edith Schippers said Wednesday that no decision has been made.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin that his government was worried about Tymoshenko's health and other imprisoned officials of her former government, saying the German offer to provide hospital care for a complicated back problem still stands.

"We have a strategic interest that Ukraine orients itself toward Europe," he said. "There is no really intelligent reason for boycotts or other measure at the moment.

"At the moment what is necessary is that Ms. Tymoshenko gets the necessary medical treatment."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was meeting with Westerwelle in Berlin urged Yanukovych "to unblock the European future of the people and the nation of Ukraine."

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Associated Press writers Frank Jordans and Juergen Baetz in Berlin, and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.