The German government said Saturday that it is talking to Ukraine about possible medical treatment in Germany for the ex-Soviet republic's former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Opposition leader Tymoshenko, 51, is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of office in a trial condemned as politically motivated in the West. Her imprisonment has been a major irritant in Ukraine's relations with the European Union and the U.S.
Tymoshenko has complained of experiencing severe back pain in custody, but said prison doctors are denying her treatment at a specialized medical clinic as recommended by a group of German doctors who examined her and by the European Court of Human Rights.
"The German government is conducting talks with the government of Ukraine in order to make possible medical treatment for Ms. Tymoshenko in Germany," a government spokeswoman said. She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department rules and declined to elaborate.
Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, which did not cite sources, reported that Ukraine had assured Germany that President Viktor Yanukovych plans to ask for legislation to be drawn up that would allow for prisoners to be treated abroad.
Berlin's Charite hospital has said that two of its doctors were part of a team that examined Tymoshenko in prison in Kharkiv in February.
On March 7, the doctors took part in a meeting in Kiev with Ukrainian and German officials. The hospital says Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said Tymoshenko could be treated outside the Kharkiv facility if needed.
Doctors and officials agreed that there is a "pressing" need for treatment, and the German doctors argued that treatment was too complex to be conducted in prison, the hospital said March 8. It has not commented on the nature of Tymoshenko's health problems.
Tymoshenko was convicted of abusing her powers during natural gas import negotiations with Russia in 2009. A contract she negotiated significantly increased the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas imports.
Tymoshenko says that agreeing to Russian terms was the only way to stop a gas war that had caused supply disruptions in Ukraine and across Europe after Russia cut gas flows to Ukraine and European consumers.
She accused Yanukovych, her longtime foe, of putting her in prison to bar her from parliamentary elections this fall. Tymoshenko narrowly lost the presidential race to Yanukovych in 2010.
On Friday, Ukraine and the EU took the first step toward the country's gradual integration in the bloc, beginning the process of concluding a new accord calling for the implementation of constitutional reforms _ including an independent judicial system.