Ukraine's Tymoshenko to leave jail for medical treatment


THE PRESIDENT of Ukraine has granted permission for his fiercest rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, to receive medical treatment outside the prison where she is being held after her condition was described as “very bad”.

The opposition leader and former prime minister is six weeks into a seven-year jail sentence for abusing her power in 2009, when she signed a gas deal with Russia that prosecutors said was ruinously expensive for Ukraine. She is also facing other corruption charges and investigations.

Ms Tymoshenko denies the allegations and says they are part of a vendetta against her by Mr Yanukovich, who was the biggest loser in the 2004 Orange Revolution that she helped to lead.

The European Union warned Viktor Yanukovich that relations would suffer if Ms Tymoshenko was jailed, after what was seen widely in the West as a politically motivated trial.

The president’s announcement on Ms Tymoshenko’s treatment came after talks yesterday with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, and as the Polish and Swedish foreign ministers prepared for an unusual meeting with Rinat Akhmetov, a billionaire ally of the president.

Mr Yanukovich said he had been informed that healthcare in the prison “is not up to the required standards, so this treatment or medical services will have to be provided in medical institutions in Kiev in the coming days, either today or tomorrow”.

Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman Nina Karpacheva visited Ms Tymoshenko (50) in her cell this week. “Tymoshenko’s state of health is very bad,” Ms Karpacheva said. “She could not get out of bed when she spoke to me. She needs to be looked at and get treatment outside police detention.”

Supporters of the former prime minister say she has severe back trouble and big, unexplained bruises on her body.

Mr Yanukovich’s announcement came as Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt and Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski prepared to meet Mr Akhmetov before his football club, Shakhtar Donetsk, played in the Champions League.

Ukrainian media said the diplomats were hoping to influence Mr Yanukovich’s stance on Ms Tymoshenko’s fate and other issues of concern before next month’s EU- Ukraine summit, with planned deals on political association and free trade now in jeopardy. “Europe was shocked by the decision taken by the court about the opposition leader,” Ms Grybauskaite said.