Ukraine condemns moves to politicize Euro soccer

KIEV Thu May 3, 2012 11:28am EDT

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine on Thursday denounced what it said were attempts to politicize the European soccer championships next month as "destructive" and said the failure of the tournament would be a loss for millions of people.

Several European politicians have said they intend to stay away from the former Soviet republic in protest at the treatment accorded to imprisoned opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko by the Kiev authorities.

"The foreign ministry considers attempts to politicize sporting events to be destructive," the ministry said in a statement.

"A successful championship will be a victory not for politicians, parties or ideologies, but for all Ukrainians and Poles. Its failure will be a loss for millions," it said.

Poland and Ukraine are co-hosts of the month-long Euro-2012 tournament whose opening games will be played on June 9. The final will be played in Kiev on July 1.

Tymoshenko, main rival of President Viktor Yanukovich, was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for abuse of office after a trial that the West says was politically motivated.

She is now in a prison in the city of Kharkiv, one of the Euro-2012 venues. She has been on a hunger strike since April 20 in protest at what she said was an assault by prison guards, an allegation denied by the prison administration.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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