French ministers to boycott Ukraine games
FRENCH GOVERNMENT ministers will not attend any Euro 2012 football matches in Ukraine in protest at the country’s treatment of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, increasing the likelihood of a major political boycott of the tournament, which begins on Friday.
“On a political level, there’ll be no representation of the government because Ukraine isn’t respecting basic democratic principles,” said French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
France’s minister for youth and sport, Valerie Fourneyron, said Paris had “informed the Ukrainian and Polish governments of this situation” around Euro 2012, which will be held in both countries.
“It’s a position we’ve taken because of our concern for respecting European values and especially in light of Ms Tymoshenko’s situation,” Ms Fourneyron added. Mr Ayrault said he would “willingly” go to matches in Poland. The EU’s senior officials have also vowed not to attend matches in Ukraine, but leaders of most member states have yet to reveal their plans.
Countries including France, England, Germany and the Netherlands will play in Ukraine, and the final will be in Kiev.
French president François Hollande suggested recently that he would not go to Ukraine, saying: “I love football, but what’s happening in Ukraine is a problem.”
Germany’s Angela Merkel said she would decide “at short notice” whether to go to Ukraine, which she compared last month to its autocratic neighbour Belarus.
Ms Tymoshenko was jailed last autumn for seven years for abuse of power while prime minister, in a trial the EU and US called politically motivated. She is now being treated in hospital for back problems and the effects of a hunger strike launched in protest at alleged mistreatment in jail.
The popular opposition leader accuses President Viktor Yanukovich of trying to sideline her and several allies ahead of October’s parliamentary elections.
This week she was named as a witness in an investigation into the murder of a business rival and his wife in the 1990s. Ukrainian media have quoted unnamed officials as saying that she will officially become a suspect in the case when released from hospital. Ms Tymoshenko (51) has called the allegations “absurd”.