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EU Official: 'Serious Concern' About Tymoshenko


Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko waves from a prison window in Kyiv, Nov. 4, 2011.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko waves from a prison window in Kyiv, Nov. 4, 2011.

A European Union envoy says he has voiced "serious concern" to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and top officials in Ukraine about the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule met with Yanukovych in Kyiv before visiting Tymoshenko at the prison where she is being held.

In a statement, Fule said he told Tymoshenko the EU will continue to follow her appeal and insist she is allowed to defend herself in a fair process. Fule also said he talked to Tymoshenko about her health condition. She is suffering from a back problem.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail last month for exceeding her power as prime minister when she signed a 2009 gas deal with Russia that her opponents say was too beneficial to Moscow.

She has denied the charges and has appealed her conviction.

Fule's visit comes ahead of a planned Dec. 19 summit in Kyiv between Ukraine and EU leaders that was expected to focus on preliminary steps toward Ukraine's joining the 27-nation bloc. EU officials have warned the trial is damaging Kyiv's hopes of signing an association agreement by the end of this year, a key first step toward gaining EU membership.

The United States, the EU and human rights groups have condemned the charges against Tymoshenko as politically motivated.

The former prime minister recently said authorities are refusing to properly diagnose and treat her back problem. A top official in her All Ukrainian Union party said she continues to feel worse.

Tymoshenko has described her trial as a "political lynching" aimed at allowing President Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival. She was expected to be the main opposition candidate in a parliamentary election next year, but is not eligible to run if the conviction is upheld.

In a separate case, Ukraine has charged Tymoshenko with embezzlement and tax evasion while she headed a Ukrainian energy firm in the 1990s.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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