Blasts injure 27 in Ukraine ahead of Euro 2012


FOUR EXPLOSIONS in the home town of Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko have injured 27 people just weeks before the country co-hosts the Euro 2012 football championship.

The bombs exploded in quick succession yesterday around the city of Dnipropetrovsk in what officials called a suspected “terrorist attack”.

“For us, this is the latest challenge for the whole country,” said President Viktor Yanukovich. “We will think how to respond properly. I think we will manage. It is sad that this happened.”

Dnipropetrovsk is not a host city for Euro 2012, which starts in six weeks in Ukraine and Poland. It is a major industrial hub about 250km from Donetsk and Kharkiv, which between them will stage games involving England, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Portugal, among others.

“This issue needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness,” said Polish prime minister Donald Tusk. “An attack in our region is something that is very rare and the Euro 2012 context means we are particularly vigilant about such incidents.”

European football’s governing body, Uefa, said it still had “confidence in the security measures that have been developed . . . which will ensure a smooth and festive tournament.”

Dnipropetrovsk is the birthplace of Ms Tymoshenko (51), the former prime minister whose jailing for abuse of power has been denounced by the European Union and United States.

They say the cases brought against her and several allies are politically motivated, lending weight to Ms Tymoshenko’s claims that Mr Yanukovich is using Ukraine’s courts to sideline his most popular rival ahead of general elections later this year.

Ms Tymoshenko is on hunger strike and says prison guards in Kharkiv punched her in the stomach when taking her against her will to a local hospital. German doctors who have examined her say she needs urgent treatment abroad for severe back problems. German president Joachim Gauck has cancelled a planned visit to Kiev and Ukraine’s opposition is urging officials from EU states to boycott Euro 2012 games in the country.

The EU’s justice commissioner Viviane Reding urged Uefa “to take into account the dramatic situation” of Ms Tymoshenko.

“You cannot close your eyes on human rights, even during a great sporting celebration,” she said.

Ms Tymoshenko’s allies said the explosions could be part of a government ploy to distract attention from her plight and even provide a pretext for a declaration of emergency rule.