Football: British ministers shun England quarter-final
(LONDON) - Britain will not send any ministers to England's Euro 2012 quarter-final against Italy due to "widespread concerns about selective justice" in Ukraine, Downing Street said Wednesday.
Anger is running high across Europe over the treatment of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and other governments have been putting mounting pressure on Ukraine, the tournament co-hosts.
No British ministers attended England's three group matches against France, Sweden and Ukraine which were all played in Ukraine, although the ambassador to Kiev did go.
London has faced accusations of inconsistency, having failed to pledge to sustain the policy of staying away from matches in Ukraine regardless of previously unfancied England's progress.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office confirmed that no British minister would be in Kiev to watch Sunday's quarter-final against Italy.
"It reflects ministers' busy schedules ahead of the (London) Olympics and widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in the Ukraine," she said.
If England beat Italy, they would then play either Germany or Greece in a semi-final on June 28 in Warsaw. The final will be held in Kiev.
Should England reach the last four, there may be ministerial attendance at the semi-final in the Polish capital.
However, asked if the boycott would apply to the final, the spokeswoman said: "Let's see how we get on on Sunday. No decision has been made."
England topped Group D -- contested in Ukraine -- following their 1-0 win over the co-hosts in Donetsk on Tuesday.
They drew 1-1 with France in their opening game and then beat Sweden 3-2.
Paris announced last month that the French cabinet would boycott Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine in protest at Tymoshenko's treatment.
The European Union said all its commissioners would skip games in Ukraine, which, unlike Poland, is not a member of the EU.
Speaking on June 10 about the prospect of British ministers attending knock-out stage matches in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Situations can change. We have concerns about Ukraine. It's possible for the Ukrainian government to improve the situation.
"We are not laying down specific conditions. If there is an improvement, we will know improvement when we see it," he told Sky News television.
Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October on charges of abuse of power while in office, after a trial that was bitterly criticised by the West as appearing politically motivated.
One of the leaders of the "Orange Revolution" in 2004-05, Tymoshenko narrowly lost to President Viktor Yanukovych in presidential elections last year. The presidency denied any involvement in her trial.
Following her conviction, Britain raised concerns about serious violations of legal principles and said the ruling called into question Ukraine's commitment to democracy and the rule of law.
Manager Roy Hodgson's England team have based themselves in Krakow in southern Poland, despite playing all three group matches in Ukraine.
In contrast Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the Euro 2012 quarter final between Germany and Greece on Friday, a spokesman said in Berlin on Wednesday.
Merkel will fly from a crucial four-way summit with the leaders of Italy, Spain and France in Rome which jittery financial markets are watching closely for signs of long-term solutions to the eurozone's painful debt crisis.
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