Lithuanian President plans Tymoshenko Visit
Lithuania’s president says she will attempt to visit former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the hospital where she is currently being treated, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Ukraine a Belarus-like "dictatorship."
If President Dalia Grybauskaite is allowed to meet Tymoshenko in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on May 11, she will become the first foreign leader to see the jailed politician since she was convicted in October 2011.
On May (, Tymoshenko, who is serving a controversial seven-year prison term on abuse-of-office charges, ended a hunger strike that had lasted nearly three weeks in protest at alleged abuse. She ended her fast after being moved from jail to a hospital for treatment under a German doctor’s supervision.
Western leaders have said the charges against Tymoshenko are politically motivated persecution by the government of her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych.
Grybauskaite is also scheduled to meet with Yanukovych in Kyiv on May 11, together with a small group of East European leaders.
Merkel Slams Kyiv, Minsk
Meanwhile, on May 10, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the country’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, that Ukraine was a dictatorship and likened it to its authoritarian neighbor, Belarus.
"Today, we in Germany and the European Union, live in peace and freedom, " she said. "This is unfortunately not the case throughout Europe, because in Ukraine and Belarus, people are still suffering under dictatorship and repression."
The dispute over Tymoshenko’s treatment has prompted European Union commissioners and several other Western politicians to threaten to boycott the month-long Euro 2012 soccer tournament, which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland in June.
Also on May 10, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said he would only accept an invitation from his Ukrainian counterpart if Kyiv made a "new decision" in the Tymoshenko case.
On May 8, Yanukovych invited Komorowski for talks, after Kyiv was forced to cancel a Central and Eastern European summit scheduled for May 11-12 in Yalta.
Kyiv canceled the summit after close to a dozen heads of state cancelled their attendance in protest at Tymoshenko’s treatment.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa