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Ukraine

EU Calls For Euro 2012 Boycott Leave Poland In The Lurch

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych plays around in Kyiv's Olympic Stadium, one of the scheduled venues for Euro 2012.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych plays around in Kyiv's Olympic Stadium, one of the scheduled venues for Euro 2012.

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Tymoshenko Case 'May Harm' EU Pact

Germany's foreign minister has warned that Ukraine's failure to address concerns about jailed ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could threaten a European Union-Ukraine association agreement that has been under negotiation for years.
By Robert Coalson
The ambitious east-west project for Poland and Ukraine to jointly host the Euro 2012 soccer championship was intended to showcase Ukraine's rapid European integration. Now, with the tournament kickoff just a month away, politics threaten to steal the show.

Politicians in Western Europe looking to express their displeasure with the treatment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and members of her government appear to have settled on something sure to get President Viktor Yanukovych's attention -- a boycott of matches held on Ukrainian soil.

But their protests are also putting pressure on EU-member Poland, which has been one of the leading proponents of the bloc's Eastern Partnership Program and of efforts to reach out to Eastern European neighbors generally.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said he'll skip the Ukraine portion of the championship. EU Justice Commissioner Vivian Reding will pass on the opening ceremonies. Austrian government officials will be no-shows, as will officials from the Netherlands and Belgium's foreign minister. The European Union's sports commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, also says she will not attend any matches in Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also reportedly considering a boycott.

Their decisions are intended to be a sign of solidarity with Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 on abuse-of-office charges, has gone on hunger strike to protest her treatment in prison and has demanded better treatment for a painful health problem.

Boycotts 'Counterproductive'

The pressure comes on top of a widening boycott of a May 11-12 summit of Eastern and Central European heads of states to be held in the Ukrainian resort city of Yalta. At least seven EU heads of state have said they won't be attending.

Yulia Tymoshenko shows bruises to her body that she says were made by prison guards who forcibly took her to a clinic for treatment in late April.Yulia Tymoshenko shows bruises to her body that she says were made by prison guards who forcibly took her to a clinic for treatment in late April.
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Yulia Tymoshenko shows bruises to her body that she says were made by prison guards who forcibly took her to a clinic for treatment in late April.
Yulia Tymoshenko shows bruises to her body that she says were made by prison guards who forcibly took her to a clinic for treatment in late April.
Warsaw's official position is that political boycotts of athletic events are counterproductive generally and that a Euro 2012 boycott will do nothing to help Tymoshenko. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on May 3 rejected calls for a boycott and said Tymoshenko herself would not want to see the years of preparation that she worked so hard on come to nothing.

Poland's ambassador to the EU, Jan Tombinski, told RFE/RL he was disappointed by the "high level of politicization" of international sporting event.

"I'm not really a fan of boycotting sports events in such a selective way," Tombinski said. "We have in different countries in the world problems and we may be very critical against other countries -- [if] we apply this rule in a symmetric and equal way against everybody, then we will be really in trouble in the world because of the possibility of finding in all countries problems."

Tombinski added that the experience of the boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics showed that mixing politics and athletics is a mistake.

'Selective Approach'

Polish lawmaker and member of the European Parliament Pavel Zalewski agreed, saying the criminal prosecution of former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky did not produce EU calls to boycott Moscow.
When over many years [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky...sat in prison for political reasons, I did not hear these so-called champions of liberty suggesting a boycott of Russia."

"When human rights were violated in Russia, when over many years Khodorkovsky has sat in prison for political reasons, I did not hear these so-called champions of liberty suggesting a boycott of Russia," Zalewski said. "On the contrary, they have had very intense relations with Russia. This apparently selective approach to the question of human rights, which is disproportionately harsh, will not influence the situation in Ukraine."

Kacper Chmielewski, spokesman for the Polish EU Embassy in Brussels, said it was more appropriate to pressure Ukraine on the political level, which Warsaw is doing.

"We have made many attempts to address this issue properly and to really get Kyiv to understand that all the strings are in their hands, that they have to pull them internally to address this accordingly to the standards of the European Union, to show that they are on the path and on similar standards," Chmielewski said.

Comparisons with the Olympics boycotts of the 1980s are not appropriate, says Michael Emerson, a senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, because so far European politicians have only said they personally won't attend Euro 2012 events.

"An escalation in the affair reminiscent of the Moscow Olympics in the 1980s would be if the European Union member states withdrew their teams from playing," Emerson says. "But that's not the question at the moment, is it?"

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is an avid hockey fan.Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is an avid hockey fan.
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Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is an avid hockey fan.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is an avid hockey fan.
The conflict around Euro 2012 is brought into sharper relief by the fact that the International Ice Hockey Federation plans to hold the 2014 World Hockey Championships in Belarus. The European Parliament has already appealed to the federation to reverse that decision because of the human rights record of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Poland has led the EU push for ever-tougher sanctions against Lukashenka's government in recent years. And this puts Warsaw in a tricky position. EU Embassy spokesman Chmielewski declined to comment on the hockey issue.

But Ambassador Tombinski noted that Lukashenka was an avid hockey fan and so, in this case, a politically driven athletics statement just might make sense.

"[If] we really use the means of showing our opinions to a dictatorial regime, to the Lukashenka regime, then we have to use instruments making real pain to him," Tombinski said. "And we know what a fan he is about hockey and it will really make [him think] there are some limits in how he behaves."

With additional reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels and RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Yuriy Savytsky in Warsaw

Robert Coalson

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jack from: US
May 04, 2012 14:28
EU clowns cornered themselves. Russia should move its tactical nukes back into Ukraine to pretect Ukrainians from possible aggression by NATO criminals. US government and its NATO minions are hypocritically playing Timoshenko card, while their Wahhabi Sunni allies slaughter Christians and Shia Muslims in Syria, in Bahrain, in Pakistan, in Lybia.
In Response

by: Mamuka
May 04, 2012 15:23
Jack! Did you forget to take your pills again today?
In Response

by: Ivan from: California
May 04, 2012 18:14
Protect Ukrainians from NATO agression hahaha, only in your mind. The truth is the Russians dont mind the slaughter and are fully supporting it. It is their weapons on both sides of the fight. They are happily making billions watching the slaughter as long as it keeps going they will stand back, pretend to care about civilians, and watch their bullets kill.
In Response

by: UKR FAN from: Canada
May 04, 2012 18:24
Don't know what "pretect" means, but expect it is not good, especially coming from good old Jack.

by: luke from: la grange, IL
May 04, 2012 17:12
Why now just a month before the CUP? Look she is not in jail for no reason, if you do the crime you do the time! I wish for politicians to to get involved in sports. Germany should pay big time for spreading hatred and asking others to boy cut EURO! This is a big deal for Poland and Ukraine and they have to make sure no one will make them look bad. Tymoshenko probably injured her self not the jail guards. EU is a joke and Poland had better when it was not part of EU. I hope EU like USSR will fall apart and fail!!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
May 04, 2012 20:49
It's interesting sometimes to stand back for a second and compare today's "situation" around Ukraine-EU/NATO relationship with the one that existed, let's say, 5 years ago. Remember? In 2007 just before the NATO Bucharest Summit George W. Bush came to Kiev and met the then Ukrainian President Yushchenko. In Kiev he publicly promised that Ukraine was about to be admitted to NATO (implying that the decision was going to be taken during the Summit itself). The then President of Poland Kaczinski was also very glad to go on public and boast about the "unstoppable NATO progress"...
Today, 5 years later, George W. is probably writing his memoirs (or maybe just learning to write), the late Pres. Kaczinski has a monument of himself inaugurated in Georgia (probably the only place on Earth outside Poland where people still remember this name), Yushchenko is nowhere in sight and NATO... :-))))) Ah, NATO :-))... When is Karzai finally going to apologize to NATO for all the trouble that the bad Afghans have dragged poor NATO into :-)? At any rate, the people of Ukraine can only regret that they will not be a part of the tremendous final victory of NATO in Afghanistan - which is coming really soon :-))...
In Response

by: Jack from: US
May 05, 2012 13:22
George W Bush is hiding on his ranch in TX. He is afraid to show his mug even to his fellow rednecks
In Response

by: UKR FAN from: Canada
May 07, 2012 21:33
What are those pills you are taking "Jack from:US.)? I think we should send Jack to a German Doctor as well.

by: Vitor from: Kiev
May 06, 2012 08:33
Please visit site about EURO 2012 in Ukraine:
http://nlru.blogspot.com/
In Response

by: J from: US
May 08, 2012 00:38
You must have known this was coming. They just had to show you are not equal to Poland. Had you not jailed your thief lady they would concoct another reason.
In Response

by: Murph from: Nottingham
May 28, 2012 20:46
Vitor,
''What to do while in the Ukrain for 2012?'' The answer is that if you are black, Asian or Jewish, take cover because you will be surrounded by the largest group of violent, white supremist in Europe since Germany in the 30s. I have just watched a programme on British TV about racism and anti semitism in Poland and the Ukrain. Its staggering to see that just one brain cell can be shared by thousands upon thousands of football fans. These people are from the dark-ages: nazis to a man. Beating up their own fans because they were Asian. Neither the stewards nor the police lifted a finger to help them, probably because the police are sympathisers to their cause. As well as that these bastards use the Celtic cross as an extreme white racist symbol.
Beware at Euro 2012: your are not mixing with normal human beings.

by: Ilona from: PL
May 06, 2012 14:04
I don't remember the boycott of the Olympics in Beijing. Of course it wasn't so - China has money. But I am waiting for the boycott of the Olympic Games in Sochi ... like for the snow in the summer ... Eurohypocrites!!

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