Ukraine has requested that German doctors be sent to examine and treat Yulia Tymoshenko after the opposition leader and former prime minister launched a hunger strike to protest her treatment in jail.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said that "an official request" had been sent to the German government to assist in sending the doctors.
A team of German doctors examined Tymoshenko this month in prison in Kharkiv, the eastern city where the onetime Orange Revolution heroine is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office.
Tymoshenko's lawyer said she began a hunger strike on April 20 after she was beaten and forcibly taken to a hospital for treatment of debilitating back pain. Prison authorities have denied the allegations.
European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said on April 25 that the treatment of Tymoshenko was a "stain" on Ukraine's record.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany was deeply concerned by reports of Tymoshenko's alleged mistreatment. He said if the reports were confirmed, such treatment would be "unacceptable and completely disproportionate."
A senior member of the Ukrainian opposition, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, alleged that staff at the prison had "grossly mishandled" Tymoshenko on April 20 while transporting her to a hospital, leaving her injured.
The Ukrainian parliament's human rights commissioner, Nina Karpachova, on April 25 said that during a visit to the prison in Kharkiv, a member of her staff had confirmed that Tymoshenko was bruised.
Karpachova asserted that Tymoshenko's treatment could be regarded as "torture" and demanded prosecutors investigate the claims.
"Escorting Tymoshenko [to the hospital] in this manner amounts to cruel treatment of an inmate and can be regarded as torture under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights and under the UN Convention Against Torture," Karpachova said.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz told RFE/RL on April 25 (see full interview
) that reports about Tymoshenko being manhandled were "an unacceptable development."
"If [Tymoshenko] was beaten -- as I was told -- if she is badly and poorly treated in prison, this is a shame and a disgrace for the country," Schulz said.
Schulz, who was to meet in Brussels with Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy later on April 25, said he would express the European Parliament's deep disappointment with Kyiv.
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October on charges of abusing her power as prime minister in signing a 2009 gas deal with Russia. A new trial against her on charges of tax fraud allegedly committed during the 1990s began on April 19.
Tymoshenko, a leader of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy uprising that thwarted the flawed election of Viktor Yanukovych to the presidency, says she is the victim of political vendetta by forces connected to Yanukovych, who defeated her in the second round of a hard-fought presidential election in 2010.
The European Union and the United States have also condemned Tymoshenko's imprisonment as politically motivated. EU officials have warned the case threatens ratification of what is envisioned as a landmark political association agreement between Ukraine and the bloc that has been under negotiation for years.
Analysts say the case also risks casting a shadow as Ukraine makes final preparations to co-host the 2012 European soccer championship with Poland, which begins on June 8.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and dpa