German president rejects Ukraine invitation
(BERLIN) - German President Joachim Gauck will not attend a meeting in Ukraine due to mounting concerns about the treatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, his office said Thursday.
Gauck had been invited to a gathering of presidents of central European countries in mid-May in the Black Sea city of Yalta.
"President Gauck decided not to accept the invitation," his spokesman said, noting the move "can be seen in connection with the imprisonment of Ms Tymoshenko".
He said Gauck had consulted with Chancellor Angela Merkel before taking his decision and that the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin had been informed.
The president, a former East German rights activist, has not yet decided whether he will attend the European football championships in Ukraine starting in June, the spokesman added.
Meanwhile a news report said aides to Merkel had told Ukrainian government representatives on Thursday that the chancellor had threatened to skip the event over the Tymoshenko case.
Her office said it had no immediate comment on the report to appear in Friday's edition of the Financial Times Deutschland.
And Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, whose remit also includes sport, said he could not understand why Ukraine was jeopardising "this great opportunity to shed a positive spotlight on the country".
"That is why I hope that a few things will change before the kick-off," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in Luxembourg.
The European Union has voiced serious concern over the situation of the ex-prime minister, who is on a hunger strike and said she suffered a beating in prison. Merkel expressed similar worries Wednesday through a spokesman.
President Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday he had ordered a probe into the alleged beating.
Kiev has asked Germany to send a team of doctors to treat Tymoshenko, who has frequently clashed with Yanukovych over the past two years.
Physicians from Berlin's Charite hospital who examined her briefly this month are to present a report on her condition and proposals for her future care at a news conference Friday in the German capital.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday that his government's earlier offer to treat Tymoshenko in a German clinic -- an idea flatly rejected by Ukraine -- was still valid.
A Ukrainian deputy prime minister said his government could amend a law to allow Tymoshenko to be treated in another country such as Germany if Brussels closed outstanding talks on an EU partnership deal.
However Westerwelle indicated Thursday on a visit to Brunei that the deal could remain on ice if Tymoshenko did not receive "appropriate medical treatment".
"What is key for us is that a justice system that is politically instrumentalised not be accepted," he added. "That is also important when we talk about the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union."
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