News

Leaders Threaten Euro 2012 Boycott Over Alleged Ukraine Abuses

Henry Ridgwell

A number of European leaders say they plan to boycott the Euro 2012 football tournament next month in Ukraine to protest the alleged mistreatment of the country's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently in jail.  A new report also raises concerns about the conduct of the Ukrainian police, just as the country prepares for the arrival of soccer fans from across Europe.

May Day brought communist demonstrators onto the streets Tuesday in Kiev - as news of the threatened Euro 2012 boycott spread. Marchers voiced their support for Yulia Tymoshenko and for the boycott - 15-year-old Serhiy was among them.

"It is not right, of course, what they are doing with Yulia Tymoshenko," he said.  "Everybody needs to sort it out, and that she is being defended by the European Union is right."

Key Dates for Tymoshenko

1995-1997: President of United Energy Systems of Ukraine
1996: Becomes member of Ukraine's parliament
1999-2001:
Deputy prime minister in charge of energy
2004:
Co-leads Orange Revolution that secures presidential victory of Viktor Yushchenko
2005:
Prime minister, relationship with Yushchenko becomes strained
2007-2010:
Prime minister, signs controversial gas deal with Russia
November 2010:
Loses presidential election to Victor Yanukovych
December 2010:
Charged with misusing state funds
May 2011:
Charged with abuse of power for Russian gas contract
October 2011:
Sentenced to 7 years in prison for abuse of power

Photos show former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on a hunger strike, with bruises on her arms and stomach that she says were inflicted by prison guards - a charge the government denies.  She is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office, charges she says are politically motivated.

The photos prompted several European leaders and ministers, among them the entire Dutch government and the president of the European Commission, to pledge a boycott of next month's Euro 2012 soccer matches in Ukraine.

Germany's Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen urged others to join.

"At the moment I do not think it is feasible for ministers or state prime ministers to take part as visitors [in Euro 2012] because I fear this poses the danger of justification of a regime, a dictatorial regime," said Roettgen.

Other European leaders, including the foreign ministers of Germany and Sweden, have rejected calls for a boycott.

Ukraine analyst Orysia Lutsevych, of the London-based research group Chatham House, says a boycott would hurt all Ukrainians.

"I think there could be better ways around sending a signal and putting pressure on the government other than a boycott," said Lutsevych.  "By having so many journalists in the country and by having so many celebrities in the country we can raise an issue of human rights and democracy in another way."

As Ukraine rushes to complete its new stadiums in time for June, the government hopes Euro 2012 will be a showcase for the country with up to a million visitors expected.

But a new report is raising concerns about the the conduct of the Ukrainian police force.   

Max Tucker of human-rights group Amnesty International points to CCTV footage posted on the Internet, allegedly showing police beating a man in a bar before forcing him to hand over $2,500.  Tucker says the police service needs urgent reform.

"Police are torturing people in order to extract a confession, in order to kind of extort money or simply because of the ethnicity or sexual orientation of the person that they have in custody," said Tucker.

Opinion across Europe appears divided; some argue a Euro 2012 boycott would serve to raise awareness of alleged abuses in Ukraine, while others say the presence of so many foreign journalists and visitors will put a spotlight on the country, perhaps leading to change.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs