KIEV, Ukraine — Germany offered to fly jailed former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko out of Ukraine to provide medical treatment for a back problem, putting further pressure on the government Friday to release her from prison.
Tymoshenko's seven-year sentence on charges of abuse of office has seriously strained Ukraine's relations with the European Union, which it seeks to join. Brussels has warned that it will not sign a key cooperation deal with Ukraine unless the Tymoshenko case, which it says is politically motivated, is resolved.
On a visit to Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Friday that Tymoshenko, 52, hadn't been given a fair trial and offered to transport her to Germany for medical help.
"Mrs. Tymoshenko, in our opinion, has the right to a fair trial and appropriate medical assistance," Westerwelle told reporters in between meetings with members of the government and the opposition in Kiev.
President Viktor Yanukovych's spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment and a terse statement on the meeting with Westerwelle from Yanukovych's office didn't discuss the Tymoshenko case. A senior Ukrainian prosecutor in charge of the Tymoshenko case, however, recently hinted that sending her to Germany could be an option.
After narrowly losing to Yanukovych in the 2010 election, Tymoshenko was jailed on charges stemming from a natural gas deal she struck with Russia as prime minister a year earlier. She denies the charges against her and accuses Yanukovych of imprisoning her to bar her from elections. She is also the subject of other criminal investigations, including a murder case that took place 16 years ago.
Tymoshenko has spent more than a year at a Ukrainian hospital being treated for a back problem under the guidance of a team of German doctors. But Tymoshenko doesn't trust government-controlled Ukrainian doctors and says her condition has been made worse by having to live under round-the-clock surveillance, including in the shower. Some of the videos were leaked onto the internet.
Flying Tymoshenko to Germany has been touted as an initial compromise option acceptable to both sides. Westerwelle declined to say whether merely allowing Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for treatment, without actually fully freeing her, would prompt Brussels to sign the agreement.
Yanukovych has denied Western accusations of targeting his political rivals for prosecution, saying he has no influence in the judicial process.