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German president scraps Ukraine trip over Tymoshenko

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April 26, 2012, 11:57 a.m. | Politics — by Reuters

German President Joachim Gauck has cancelled a planned visit to Ukraine next month, a spokesman said, amid growing concerns over the health and treatment of jailed former Ukrainian prime minister Julia Tymoshenko.
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BERLIN- German PresidentJoachim Gauckhas cancelled a planned visit toUkrainenext month, a spokesman said, amid growing concerns over the health and treatment of jailed former Ukrainian prime ministerJulia Tymoshenko. Germanyhas been particularly critical ofUkraineover theTymoshenkocase, which has badly strained relations between the former Soviet republic and the 27-nationEuropean Unionthat it aspires to join.

Berlinhas offered to treatTymoshenko, who suffers from acute back pain, in aGerman hospital, an offer it repeated on Wednesday. It also expressed concern over reports that prison guards beat her during her recent forced move to hospital.

Gauck, a former human rights activist from communist EastGermany, had been due to attend a gathering of central European heads of state in theBlack Searesort of Yalta in mid-May.

"The president will not now visitUkraine," a spokesman said.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung dailysaid Gauck, whose role is largely ceremonial, took the decision after consulting German ChancellorAngela Merkel.

Tymoshenko, 51, has been on hunger strike since last Friday when she said she was assaulted by the guards. Prison authorities have said she may be force-fed.

Tymoshenko, the main political rival of President Viktor Yanukovich, is serving a seven-year prison term in the city of Kharkiv following an abuse-of-office conviction described by many inEuropeas poltically motivated.

DespiteGermany's strongly critical stance on theTymoshenkocase, Foreign MinisterGuido Westerwellethis week ruled out a boycott of the European soccer championship thatUkraineis due to co-host with its EU neighbourPolandthis summer.
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Roman Dawydiak April 26, 2012, 12:40 p.m.    

It is more than possible that several other Heads of State will join the German President in boycotting the Yalta Conference. As this meeting was never intended to be much more than a publicity stunt for Yanukovych any boycott would serve as a not so subtle reminder to the Ukrainian President as to what the rest of Europe thinks of him and his authoritarian administration.

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