After a flock of European presidents sent their regrets to protest the alleged beating of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine called off a European summit scheduled for this weekend.
The cancellation over the treatment of Tymoshenko, a rival of Ukraine's president, was an embarrassing decision for a former Soviet country still trying to court the European Union for trade ties and other partnerships.
"Considering all circumstances around this event that was to be held in Yalta, Ukraine has decided not to hold it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Dykusarov told Interfax. He said it had been postponed indefinitely because so many heads of state were "unable to attend."
Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic were among more than a dozen European countries whose leaders had refused to take part in the summit, which had been scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
The Central European summit was one of two events that European leaders have shunned over the imprisonment of the controversial politician: Ukrainian leaders have denounced a burgeoning boycott of a coming soccer championship that Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland, saying sports and politics shouldn’t mix.
So far its pleas have fallen flat with European leaders worried for Tymoshenko. The former prime minister was sentenced to seven years in prison last year on charges of abusing her power. Western leaders believe the case was politically motivated.
Tymoshenko alleges that she was beaten by prison guards and went on hunger strike last month in protest. Her daughter told Bloomberg News that she would end her hunger strike Wednesday after being transferred to a hospital to be treated for a back condition by German doctors.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: A supporter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko places posters of her on a wall outside the jail in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Credit: Alexey Furman / Associated Press