Cameron Should Boycott Euro 2012 for My Mum ; Yevgenia Tymoshenko, the British-Educated Daughter of Ukraine's Imprisoned Former Prime Minister, Tells Joshi Herrmann Why Britain Should Act Now to Free Her Mother
Herrmann, Joshi, The Evening Standard (London, England)
IN KHARKIV, the north Ukrainian city where the country's incarnation as a Soviet socialist republic began in 1917, Yevgenia Tymoshenko's mother is locked up in a state hospital, under armed guard. Yulia Tymoshenko lives from day to day, in poor health, enduring a Kafkaesque nightmare that has reminded Europe's leaders of the country's bad old days. "It is a hospital but it is like a prison," says Yevgenia, 32, who visited Yulia, 51, a week ago.
The former prime minister of Ukraine was jailed for alleged abuse of power late last year at a trial that was widely condemned around the world. "The hospital is guarded by 50 outside and inside by three male guards," Yevgenia told the Standard. "She has three video cameras in her room which watch every move she makes, even when she is having a medical treatment.
"The personnel in the hospital told her there are invisible cameras and audio tapes, so we have to whisper in the room when we have meetings."
Photographs of Yulia's bruised body -- suggesting that she was roughed up by guards while being transferred from the infamous Kharkiv Prison -- shocked the world last month. Between April 20 and May 9 she was on hunger strike, refusing to be treated by state doctors whom she doesn't trust. "We were all asking her to stop but she said, 'This is my only power to protest, there's no other power'."
Yevgenia says her mother is "very strong", but has low moments: "Recently, when my grandfather passed away, she wasn't allowed to say goodbye to him. She's not allowed to call her family -- she wasn't even allowed to call me on my birthday.
"She was told she could crawl to the phone but they won't help her get there because it was in another building and she couldn't walk. Something like that really upsets her, of course."
Yevgenia met the Standard in a topfloor flat overlooking Knightsbridge. She has spent the past few months pushing the case for her mother's release, including at the European Parliament last week. She has her mother's Teutonic beauty, big eyes and round face, but looks drained. As she speaks she scribbles patterns on a napkin with a pencil, breaking successive layers of paper before screwing it up in her hand at the end.
To her relief, and that of Yulia Tymoshenko's many supporters, international pressure on the Ukrainian government has increased in recent months. Europe's leaders have begun to cancel their scheduled visits to the European Football Championship, to be hosted jointly by Ukraine and Poland, which begins next Friday.
Until now Yevgenia has stopped short of calling for a UK Government boycott, but with eight days to go, would she now like David Cameron to follow Angela Merkel's lead and cancel his trip to her country if the ex-prime minister's situation is not improved? "I would," she says, hesitantly. "I really want to ask for prime minister Cameron to make a statement, to go beyond the politically correct rhetoric and to see that what is going on in Ukraine is unacceptable and to help us with his support.
"I don't think he can come up to Yanukovych [the Ukrainian president suspected of pushing for her imprisonment], shake his hand, drink champagne and be photographed with him. He will signal then that what he is doing is right. I hope that the Prime Minister has made already this decision. A few weeks ago Merkel said Ukraine is a dictatorship. It is not possible to say that it is business as usual any more."
Tymoshenko lost the presidential election to Yanukovych in 2010 by a narrow margin, but accused her rival of large-scale vote rigging -- a charge backed up by international observers.
This is not the first time Yevgenia has had to cope with the anguish of seeing her mother behind bars. Her life, stretching back to her move to Britain as a teenager, has been punctuated by unwelcome calls from Kiev relating the news of mysterious arrests and frightening threats against both her parents. …