Jailed Ukrainian ex-prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has declared a hunger strike in what she said was designed to turn the world’s attention to the “concentration camp of violence and lawlessness” which she said was being created in Ukraine by President Viktor Yanukovych.
“I have stopped eating as of April 20 only to achieve one goal: to draw the attention of the democratic world to what has been happening in the middle of Europe, in a country called Ukraine,” Tymoshenko said in a statement read out by one of her supporters, lawmaker Sergei Pashinski, during a news briefing in Kiev on Tuesday.
“The fate of modern Ukrainian political prisoners is not the issue; we are ready to continue along our way with honor, whatever it is,” she said. “The problem is different; it lies in the understanding that the incumbent Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is creating a concentration camp of violence and lawlessness in the middle of Europe.”
Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years in prison after a Ukrainian court found her guilty of abusing her power by pushing through a gas deal with Russia in 2009. Her trial was declared “politically motivated” by both Russia and the European Union.
She has also been charged with attempting to embezzle $405 million of government funds during the 1990s, when she headed Ukraine’s state corporation United Energy Systems.
The former Ukrainian prime minister maintains her innocence in both cases.
Vlasenko told RIA Novosti Tymoshenko was resolved not to take food until “political repressions have been stopped in Ukraine.” Pashinski said her colleagues and supporters were against her decision.
Last week, Tymoshenko, who has complained of health problems since her pre-trial detention began in August 2011, was moved to a clinic in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov where her penal colony is located. But she rejected treatment, saying she was brought to the clinic against her will, and was taken back to her cell.
Tymoshenko has stated on many occasions she does not trust Ukrainian doctors.
A team of Ukrainian and German doctors examined her in mid-February, after which one of the German doctors, Karl Marx Einhopl, confirmed that she had serious back problems. Tymoshenko supporters say she can hardly walk.
The French Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was concerned over Tymoshenko’s health.
“France is dealing with the Tymoshenko issue in two directions: first, [we are concerned over] the bad operation of [Ukraine’s] judiciary, which acts according to political criteria, and second, we are concerned over her health,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
He said France's Ambassador for Human Rights Francois Zimeray attempted to visit Tymoshenko in jail last week, but was rejected.