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Jailed Former Ukraine PM Starts Hunger Strike

Yulia Tymoshenko waves from a stretcher as she is being transported to an ambulance in Kharkiv on April 22.
Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has launched a hunger strike to protest her treatment by prison authorities.

Tymoshenko’s lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko announced on April 24 that Tymoshenko began her protest fast on April 20.

He told journalists at the Kachaniv labor camp, where Tymoshenko is serving her seven-year prison term, that Tymoshenko sustained bruises on her hands and body after she was forcibly brought to the central clinic in Kharkiv on April 20.

"Yulia Tymoshenko has declared a hunger strike," he said. "Her arms are covered in bruises; she has a very large hematoma on her stomach."

Vlasenko also read out a written statement from Tymoshenko in which she described being forcibly brought to the clinic.

Official Denials

The deputy warden of the Kachaniv labor camp, Ihor Kovpashchykov, denied Tymoshenko’s statement, saying the penitentiary personnel merely escorted Tymoshenko to the clinic.

"That didn't happen," he said. "She was transported by ambulance personnel; our staff only accompanied them. That is all."

According to Vlasenko, Tymoshenko is seriously ill and cannot get up from her bed. He added that Tymoshenko started her hunger strike to protest "lawlessness in jail" and the situation in Ukraine.

A local official in Kharkiv said on April 22 that Tymoshenko was returned to prison after she "categorically" refused medical treatment at the clinic.

Western doctors who had examined Tymoshenko earlier said the former prime minister had expressed fear she would be poisoned or deliberately infected with a disease if placed in a Ukrainian medical facility.

Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of power last October.

She says she is a victim of politically motivated repression by the government of her rival, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
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