Several European Union countries on Monday said they would join Germany in boycotting the Euro 2012 football tournament unless Ukraine releases former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail.
Following Germany's footsteps, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding announced cancelation of their visits to Ukraine. A spokesman for the European commission said that Barroso is not keen on going to the tournament in light of the current situation, which he deemed very serious.
Tymoshenko's daughter on Monday welcomed the Western European leaders' decision to skip the tournament.
Ukraine referred to the boycott threat as "cold war tactics."
Tymoshenko has been serving a seven-year jail sentence in Ukraine since October for abusing her powers while she was premier in signing a gas deal with Russia. She started a hunger strike on April 20 to protest alleged beatings by prison guards.
Pictures of bruises on her body appeared in media last week. The photographs prompted the Swedish Foreign Ministry to summon the Ukrainian ambassador for an explanation.
Germany on Sunday called on President Viktor Yanukovych to improve the human rights situation in Ukraine. Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to attend any games played in Ukraine until the situation improves.
Ukraine and Poland are jointly hosting the European Championship.
Ukrainian authorities have jailed Tymoshenko in the eastern state of Kharkiv, which is the venue for Germany's first group stage match.
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