BERLIN (Reuters) - The health of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has improved but remains a concern, German doctors said on Tuesday, ahead of Europe’s biggest soccer tournament that Kiev is co-hosting and that her detention has overshadowed.
The doctors, who are helping to treat Tymoshenko, 51, for acute back pain, said she was unlikely to make a full recovery under the current conditions of her detention and urged the Ukrainian authorities to let her be treated in Kiev or at home.
Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in the eastern city of Kharkiv last October for abuse of power while serving as prime minister. She denies the charge and says she is the victim of a political vendetta by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovich.
“Her medical condition has improved. She is more mobile and is moving around at least a few hours a day,” Karl Max Einhaeupl, a doctor at Berlin’s Charite hospital, told a news conference.
“The pain is a little less than at the start of the treatment but is by no means fully overcome,” he said, adding that her distrust of Ukrainian doctors and officials and a lack of privacy were the main obstacles to a full recovery.
“Mrs Tymoshenko is afraid something will happen to her, she is afraid that people will harm her. That is the reason why she refuses any injection... It is very difficult to treat a patient who is afraid,” he said.
The European Union and the United States have condemned Tymoshenko’s trial as politically motivated, but Yanukovich has refused to release her despite the embarrassment the case has caused ahead of the Euro 2012 soccer championship, which starts on Friday and which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland.
Ukraine has also turned down an offer from Berlin to treat Tymoshenko in Germany.
In the Kharkiv hospital where she is being treated, Tymoshenko is under constant video camera surveillance and has no access to daylight, though thanks to her German doctors’ efforts she is now allowed to stand by a window for up to 20 minutes a day, Einhaeupl said.
Ukraine should transfer her to the capital Kiev or put her under house arrest to facilitate her recovery, he said.
He also expressed concern that doctors might not be allowed to treat her after the tournament as Ukraine will no longer be a focus of international attention.
Amnesty International appealed to soccer players and fans to keep human rights in mind during the championship.
Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Tim Pearce