Ukraine denies prison mistreatment of Tymoshenko
A Ukrainian prosecutor said Friday he is unaware of any alleged physical attacks on former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in prison.
Ukraine on Friday dismissed as untrue allegations that prison guards had beaten jailed opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko - claims which have alarmed Western politicians who consider her a political prisoner.
Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, said last week prison guards had beat her during a forced visit to a hospital. Her supporters circulated photographs showing bruises on her arms and abdomen.
Her allegations revived an outcry in the West over her plight which some European politicians say reflects a decline in democratic standards in the former Soviet republic since Yanukovich came to power in February 2010.
The European Union, partner in Ukraine's declared drive to European integration, has condemned Tymoshenko's conviction on abuse-of-office charges last October as an example of selective justice. It has shelved landmark deals on political association and free trade with Ukraine over the issue.
Some European politicians have cancelled plans to visit Ukraine on May 11 for a gathering on Central European issues in the southern resort of Yalta.
Tymoshenko, 51, who has been in detention since last August, declared a hunger strike in prison on April 20 in protest at being mistreated.
Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Pshonka said on Friday that his office had been unable to verify Tymoshenko's claims of physical mistreatment and he refused to open a criminal inquiry.
"Following an investigation, the request to launch a criminal case has been denied," he told reporters.
Despite Western pressure, Yanukovich, who narrowly beat Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election, has refused to intervene to free her, and prosecutors have brought to court fresh tax evasion charges against her which carry a sentence of up to 12 years.
Tymoshenko has been suffering from chronic back pain for months and has trouble walking, her family says. She says she does not trust state-appointed doctors and has refused treatment by them in prison.
On Friday, the state prison service said Tymoshenko, who is serving her sentence in a prison in the city of Kharkiv, was being visited by doctors from Germany whose government has offered to arrange her treatment in a Berlin clinic.
However, Pshonka ruled out Tymoshenko being allowed to go abroad for medical treatment.
"Ukraine's laws do not provide for Tymoshenko's trips abroad," he said. "No-one can break the law."
Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests which doomed Yanukovich's first bid for presidency but failed to produce a strong ruling coalition, allowing him to make a comeback in 2010.
Tymoshenko says the charges brought against her are driven by Yanukovich's desire for personal revenge. (Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Richard Balmforth; Editing by Peter Graff)