I’ve long admired former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for her fiery rhetoric and steely nerve. But even as she languishes in prison, Tymoshenko might be about to engineer her most significant political coup yet: a boycott of the upcoming Euro 2012 soccer tournament by European governments.
With the signature blond braid that sits – crown-like – above her head and her glamorous, almost regal bearing, one could easily mistake Tymoshenko for pure political window dressing. But that would seriously underestimate this woman’s power and influence. Tymoshenko played a major role – alongside her onetime ally Viktor Yushchenko – in spearheading Ukraine’s 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution. Subsequently, she served as prime minister of the country from 2007 to 2010, when she narrowly lost an election to current president Viktor Yanukovich.
Tymoshenko’s fortunes changed last year when she was jailed for seven years over a controversial natural gas deal with Russia during her tenure as prime minister. Many – including Tymoshenko herself – viewed her arrest and imprisonment as a crackdown on political opposition in the Ukraine as well as retribution by Yanukovich against his main political rival.
Since April of this year, however, her situation has deteriorated significantly. She is now on a hunger strike following what she claims was a brutal beating April 20 by prison guards, who she maintains punched her and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for chronic back pain. She has refused any medical treatment beyond pain killers to date, insisting that she must have her medical treatment abroad. German doctors who have examined her say that she is in “urgent need of specialized care” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly requested that the Ukrainian authorities send her to Germany for “proper treatment” of her ailments.
Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog…
Image: Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by European Parliament via Flickr under a Creative Commons license