The German government is threatening to boycott Germany’s matches at next month’s Euro 2012 football tournament in Ukraine because of alleged mistreatment of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, according to newspaper reports.
According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering staying from away the German national team’s games, which Ukraine are co-hosting with Poland, and is urging her ministers to adopt a similar boycott.
The news came as Tymoshenko’s daughter made an impassioned plea to Berlin to “save the life” of the former Ukrainian prime minister, telling the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung newspaper that “the fate of my mother and that of my country are now one and the same thing: if she dies, democracy dies with her,” The Guardian reports.
Tymoshenko, a key rival of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, for abuse of office, and faces a separate trial in May on charges of tax evasion.
She is reported to be on hunger strike and suffering from back pain, and claims prison guards have punched her, leaving her covered in bruises. The German team are set to play the Netherlands in Kharkiv on June 13, five days after the tournament begins.
According to the BBC, German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has said the government should stay away from Ukraine during Euro 2012, arguing that the Ukrainian “dictatorship” must not be allowed to exploit the competition for its own benefit and “visits by ministers and prime ministers” are “out of the question.”
Germany's Social Democrat opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel has also called for a boycott, while on Thursday, Germany's President Joachim Gauck called off a planned visit to a summit in Ukraine.
More from GlobalPost: Tymoshenko, Ukraine's jailed ex-PM, 'on hunger strike' - lawyer
Ukraine responded to reports of a planned German boycott saying such an action would constitute “cold war” tactics:
“We would not like to think that the political leaders of Germany are capable of reviving the methods of the Cold War and making sport a hostage of politics," foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshyn told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, according to The Daily Telegraph.
"We would like to think we are just talking about a false media report here," he added.
In another blow to Ukraine’s international image, four blasts shook Tymoshenko’s home city of Dnepropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine on Friday, injuring 27 people in what the government has denounced as an "act of terrorism."
Fourteen victims remain in hospital in the city, two in a serious condition.
More from GlobalPost: Ukraine hit with four blasts, government denounces "act of terrorism”