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Tymoshenko's Daughter Says She Fears For Her Mother's Life

  • Daisy Sindelar

PRAGUE -- The daughter of Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says she's afraid her mother may die because of what she describes as abusive prison conditions.

Yevhenia Tymoshenko -- who this month accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych of seeking to "get rid of" her mother -- said the former prime minister has been subjected to poor medical care and abusive conditions since she was initially jailed in August.

The 31-year-old Tymoshenko, speaking to RFE/RL in Prague, said her worries about her mother have grown ever since an alleged incident in January where prison officials took 20 minutes to respond after her mother lost consciousness in her cell.

"Of course, we understand that she's there for political reasons. And the whole democratic world states the same, that it's a politically motivated repression," she said. "But at the moment, we are actually worried just for her life. I'm not worried whether she's going to be back in politics or not, I'm just worried that she'll be alive."

Yulia Tymoshenko, who twice served as prime minister under the presidency of her Orange Revolution cohort Viktor Yushchenko, was handed a seven-year sentence late last year on charges of abuse of office.

In late December, she was moved to a remote women's prison in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Since then, her family members and lawyers have complained of harsh conditions in her jail cell, including too-bright lighting and around-the-clock video surveillance.

Heart Of The Standoff

The state of Yulia Tymoshenko's health has been at the heart of the standoff between Yanukovych's government and the former prime minister's supporters in Ukraine and the West, who say the lengthy jail sentence is politically motivated and an attempt by the president to silence a political rival.

The 51-year-old Tymoshenko is said to suffer from severe back pain and is unable to comfortably walk or sit up. Her daughter, who last saw her mother nearly two weeks ago, says she is largely confined to a bed and is even unable to walk to a telephone located in a prison corridor.
Yulia Tymoshenko (center) is surrounded by her daughter, Yevhenia, and her husband, Oleksandr, in a Kyiv court in October.

Yulia Tymoshenko (center) is surrounded by her daughter, Yevhenia, and her husband, Oleksandr, in a Kyiv court in October.

Ukrainian authorities appeared to relent this week, bringing in two independent panels of doctors from Germany and Canada to perform separate examinations.

But Yevhenia Tymoshenko says Ukrainian officials insisted on supervising the examinations and then seized the written diagnoses without revealing their content.

"The Ukrainian authorities took away my mother's diagnosis. She wasn't able to see it and to pass it to the family and to the defense lawyers," she said. "So we as a family don't know the diagnosis that's been done by the Canadian and German doctors."

Ready To Work

Officials from the Ukrainian Health Ministry have since declared Tymoshenko in satisfactory health and say she could soon be ready for a prison work assignment.

Yevhenia Tymoshenko, who says she fears the official diagnosis means her mother may be deprived of painkillers and other medical necessities, says she hopes the German and Canadian doctors will eventually publicize their assessments on their own.

However, Joseph Lavoie, press secretary for Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that such information is not likely to be made public:

"While we cannot comment on the medical findings of either the Canadian or German doctors due to doctor-patient confidentiality, we can say that the three members of the Canadian medical team are upstanding, highly qualified and experienced medical practitioners," he said.

Yulia Tymoshenko's lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, has indicated the foreign medical teams characterized the former official's condition as grave and suggested she was in need of surgery to repair a herniated disc in her lower spine.

Yulia Tymoshenko's family says the political campaign against her has extended to family members. Her husband, Oleksandr, was recently granted political asylum in the Czech Republic amid fears he, too, would become the target of criminal charges.

Yevhenia Tymoshenko has seen her father twice since his departure from Ukraine, but says she has no similar plans to leave the country.

"I'm more in the public eye, so [authorities] would be more concerned about putting any direct pressure on me," she said. "Of course, the pressure is still there. My family is spread across the world. My mother has been illegally imprisoned for many months; her life is at stake. It's very upsetting and very difficult."

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