Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko waves from a stretcher as she is transported to an ambulance in Kharkiv, April 22 2012.
The European Union has instructed its ambassador Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira to travel to Kharkiv as soon as possible, and has requested that the envoy be allowed to visit Yulia Tymoshenko – allegedly assaulted and on hunger strike – in prison.
A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on April 26 2012 that Ashton was "deeply preoccupied" by the situation of Tymoshenko, former Ukrainian prime minister who was sentenced in 2011 to seven years in jail on charges of abuse of office in a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
Ashton issued a reminder of the obligation of Ukraine to examine promptly and impartially any complaints of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Ashton’s office said.
Ashton was seriously concerned by the decision of Tymoshenko to begin a hunger strike to draw the attention of the international community to the situation in Ukraine.
The EU foreign policy chief called on Ukrainian authorities to ensure the full respect of the right of Tymoshenko to adequate medical assistance in an appropriate institution. Ashton also insisted on Tymoshenko’s right to have access to her lawyers without restriction, and said that she encouraged the Ukrainian authorities to allow visits by family members.
"As a sign of their political will to clarify the situation, the High Representative asks the Ukrainian authorities to allow the EU Ambassador, accompanied by independent medical specialists, to visit Ms Tymoshenko in prison. The EU Ambassador has been instructed, pending agreement of the authorities, to travel to Kharkiv at the earliest opportunity. "
On April 25, Ukraine's commissioner for human rights said that a personal inspection had found that Tymosheko had bruises on her body, the Voice of America said.
Nina Karpachyova announced the findings a day after a lawyer for Tymoshenko said prison guards beat Tymoshenko up while moving her to a hospital last week.
The lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said her arms and stomach were bruised from the incident.
Vlasenko said that Tymoshenko had been on a hunger strike since the alleged beating.
Tymoshenko also faces tax evasion charges that could extend her jail time to 12 years.
She denies the charges and argues they are part of a campaign by current prime minister Viktor Yanukovych to remove his strongest political rival.
The United States, the European Union and human rights groups have condemned the charges against Tymoshenko as politically motivated, the Voice of America said.
The authorities in Ukraine have denied that former Tymoshenko was beaten up in prison last week and invited German doctors to examine her, the BBC said on April 25. Ukrainian officials also denied reports Tymoshenko was on a hunger strike.