Armavirumque, May 05, 2012 01:09 PM
Letters of former prime ministers of an EU countries aren’t meant to include paragraphs like this:
At around 21:00 my fellow prisoner was taken out of her cell and shortly thereafter three enormous men came into mine. They approached my bed, covered me with a bed sheet, and began to remove me from my bed, while applying brute force. Desperate and in pain, I began to defend myself, but received a hard punch in the gut. They twisted my hands and feet, and I was taken outside in the bed sheet. I thought that this was my end. The unbearable pain in my back and my fear led me to scream and call for help, but I received none. At some point I simply lost consciousness as a result of the terrible pain and came to in a hospital.
The author is Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian opposition leader, and an icon of the now-scotched Orange Revolution, describing her treatment at the hands of prison guards on April 20. Tymoshenko is one of five ex-ministers from the Ukrainian government to be imprisoned under the new reign of Victor Yanukovych, the Putin ally whose fraudulent presidential re-election in 2004 initiated the Orange Revolution. The ostensible charge is abuse of office and the sentence is seven years, but independent monitors say that the case was politically motivated: Yanukovych wants to keep his charismatic and attractive rival off the 2015 presidential ticket. Beating up a woman in prison, moreover, is the sort of creeping authoritarianism that’s hard to hide. The state prosecutor’s claim that bruises on Tymoshenko’s body were “self-inflicted” offers a glimpse at the Kremlin-style tactics that await future oppositionists in Kiev.
Fortunately, the nostalgic lure of Moscow is tempered by financial and cultural ties to Brussels. Not only is Ukraine mired in an economic crisis, but it is set to co-host, along with Poland, the Euro 2012 finals. Even before these latest disclosures of prison violence, Germany had threatened to boycott the games so long as Tymoshenko's prison conditions remained inhumane, a threat which Ukrainian Foreign Minister Oleg Voloshin has termed a return to “cold war” posturing.
Well, fine. Western Europe still has a moral obligation to de-legitimise regimes that create political prisoners in the former Soviet bloc. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy have said they won’t attend any matches in Ukraine; so have Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
So how might it look if David Cameron or any member of his coalition government turned up in Yanokovych’s VIP box at the Olympic stadium in Kiev? Number 10 ought to heed Labour MP Denis MacShane’s proposal to have Britain join the boycott.
This article originally appeared in Armavirumque Blog, May 05, 2012 01:09 PM
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