Ukraine's Tymoshenko moved from prison to hospital

Reuters News
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Posted: May 09, 2012 1:41 AM
Ukraine's Tymoshenko moved from prison to hospital

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukraine's jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose plight in prison has soured relations between the country's leadership and the West, was moved to a local hospital on Wednesday, eyewitnesses said.

Tymoshenko, 51, a former prime minister, was jailed last October for seven years for alleged abuse of power while in office, a charge she denied.

She says she is the victim of a vendetta by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovich. The European Union and the United States have condemned her trial and sentencing as politically motivated and called for her to be released.

The outcry in the West intensified after Tymoshenko said she had been beaten in jail and went on hunger strike on April 20 in protest at the alleged ill-treatment. Authorities have denied she was mistreated.

Authorities refused to allow her to go abroad for treatment for chronic back pains after she turned down the services of state-appointed Ukrainian doctors. But under a compromise she agreed to move to a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv and receive treatment there from German doctors.

Her daughter, Yevgenia, said on Tuesday her mother would end her hunger strike under the supervision of a German doctor.

Reuters eyewitnesses said Tymoshenko was brought to a side entrance of the hospital by ambulance early on Wednesday morning in a heavily guarded convoy that included several police cars.

Two lines of white-coated hospital staff shielded her as she was carried into the hospital on a stretcher, preventing journalists and onlookers catching a glimpse of her.

A few supporters nearby shouted out "Freedom for Yulia!"

Western outrage over the treatment of the charismatic politician, who led the Orange Revolution street protests in 2004 that doomed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency, has led to threats by European politicians to boycott the European soccer championships which Ukraine is co-hosting next month.

Yanukovich on Tuesday called off a summit meeting of Central and Eastern European leaders, planned for Thursday and Friday, after several of them said they were staying away because of the Tymoshenko affair.

(Reporting by Sergiy Karazy; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by John Stonestreet)