The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Tuesday for the release of the Ukrainian jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, following the reports that the former premier had been severely beaten by the prison guards.
“The photographs of Mrs. Tymoshenko released by the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman further call into question the conditions of her confinement…We continue to call for her release, the release of other members of her former government and the restoration of their full civil and political rights,” Clinton said in a statement published on Tuesday on the U.S. Department of State’s web site.
Last week, photos appeared showing bruises on Tymoshenko's body, which she claims were inflicted by prison guards as they were forcibly transferring her to a hospital. Tymoshenko, who is suffering from severe back pain and has been diagnosed with a herniated spinal disc, is being held at a penal colony in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Ukrainian prosecutors have denied the allegations, saying the bruises were the result of Tymoshenko's "pushing against blunt objects."
Clinton also urged Ukrainian authorities to allow the U.S. Ambassador to visit her in prison.
Washington’s comments come after several European leaders said they had cancelled visits to Ukraine over Tymoshenko's mistreatment.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany would boycott the 2012 European Championships in Ukraine, which is co-hosting the tournament with Poland, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said they would follow suit.
Five EU presidents, including Germany's Joachim Gauck, said they would not be travelling to a summit in Ukraine's Black Sea resort of Yalta next week.
Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and heroine of Ukraine's 2004 Orange revolution, was jailed for seven years in October last year for abuse of office in what Western governments said was a politically motivated trial. She faces another trial on embezzlement charges.
She denies wrongdoing and says she is being persecuted by President Viktor Yanukovich.
Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevhenia, said on Monday her mother's life was "in danger" and described the authorities' treatment of her as "cynical" and "cruel."