Tymoshenko to be treated at Ukrainian clinic

Ukraine's jailed and ailing ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko tentatively agreed Friday to have her back condition treated at a local hospital under the supervision of a German doctor.

Tymoshenko lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko said the treatment of Tymoshenko's herniated disc will start Tuesday at a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv where she is jailed. He said she will give her final approval after meeting with her attorneys next week.

Dr. Karl Max Einhaeupl of Berlin's Charite clinic, who arrived to examine Tymoshenko, said his colleague will observe the treatment.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed the deal securing treatment for Tymoshenko with the German doctors' participation, saying it was a positive first step and talks with the Ukrainian leadership to achieve a sustainable solution will continue.

The 51-year-old Tymoshenko is on a hunger strike to protest the prison's alleged mistreatment of her as she serves a seven-year sentence on charges of abusing her powers when she was prime minister.

Critics have described her case as politically motivated, saying President Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko's rival in the 2010 presidential election, has orchestrated her prosecution. Government officials have denied any claims of bias in the case.

Her case has become a political nightmare for Ukraine, as prominent EU and other officials have been talking about boycotting soccer matches that Ukraine is hosting for the continent's Euro 2012 championships that begin in June.

Tymoshenko's aide Alexander Turchinov on Friday raised alarm about the former premier's health.

"She's been on a hunger strike for 15 days," he said. "Her life is in real danger."

Vlasenko said Tymoshenko has visibly lost weight, was drinking only water and mostly stayed in bed.

Tymoshenko has claimed she was beaten by prison guards and showed bruises. But Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka told reporters Friday that there are no grounds to assert that she had been beaten.

"We do not rule out that she hurt herself deliberately. We cannot make any conclusion without forensic medical examination, which she did not give consent for," he said.

He also said Ukrainian law does not let prisoners leave the country for medical treatment.

German doctors from the Charite clinic also traveled to Ukraine last month to examine Tymoshenko and concluded that she suffers from intense pain and needs urgent treatment in a specialized clinic.

Germany's government has offered to treat Tymoshenko. Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin also has suggested that Tymoshenko could be treated at a Russian hospital.

Putin was Tymoshenko's counterpart in signing a 2009 natural gas export deal that landed the Ukrainian politician in jail. Although Putin has stopped short of standing up for her, he has said there were no legal violations in the agreements they both signed.


Frank Jordans in Berlin and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.