Sunday, 13 May 2012
Germany's Merkel Compares Ukraine Repression With Belarus
BERLIN, Germany -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel says people in Ukraine are living under dictatorship and repression just like those in its authoritarian neighbor, Belarus. Merkel's comments, made to parliament Thursday, come as Germany continues to pressure Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to ensure that jailed opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko receives proper medical treatment. "Today, we in Germany and the European Union, live in peace and freedom," she said. "This is unfortunately not the case throughout Europe, because in Ukraine and Belarus people are still suffering under dictatorship and suppression. We must never forget, however large the issues we are dealing with and however tiring certain party political disagreements can be, we must never forget the gift that we in the European Union and the Transatlantic organization have been protecting for the last 67 years. A gift of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and human dignity." Germany has been leading Europe's critical stance on her case. Tymoshenko ended her nearly three-week hunger strike on Wednesday after being moved from prison to a local hospital for treatment of chronic back pain. President Yanukovych is facing growing criticism about her conviction and his government's refusal to let her travel to Germany for treatment. Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail sentence after being convicted of abuse of office in a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She denies the charges. Western nations say they were politically motivated. Some European Union member states have threatened to boycott the Euro 2012 football (soccer) championship, which Ukraine is jointly co-hosting with Poland. On Tuesday, Ukraine postponed a planned summit of Central and Eastern European leaders, after some pulled out to protest the treatment of Tymoshenko. The summit was scheduled to take place in Yalta on Friday and Saturday. About 10 EU leaders said they will not attend, including German President Joachim Gauck and Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Tymoshenko is now standing trial on tax evasion charges, which could extend her prison time to 12 years. She says the charges are part of a campaign by President Yanukovich to remove his strongest political rival.