WARSAW The West should not boycott Ukraine during the European soccer championship in June as that would hamper its European ambitions and force the ex-Soviet country back into the arms of Russia, Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski said on Wednesday.
Led by Germany, leaders of several European Union countries have called off scheduled visits to Ukraine during the Euro 2012, a tournament co-hosted by Poland that starts in just over a month, in protest against the treatment of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko, the main political rival of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, is in prison after being convicted last October in a case her supporters say was politically motivated.
"The Euro is not the property of this or that politician. It is a chance for the nation, the Ukrainian country, to present itself from the best side," Komorowski said in an interview with Poland's state television channel TVP1.
"We, in Poland, understand this very well. We feel that Ukraine is somewhere between a choice of integration with the Western world ... or a chance to participate in a customs union proposed by Russia."
"From this point of view, Poland has well-grounded fears that it (boycotting Ukraine) might result in Ukraine choosing a political route alternative to the process of European integration."
The EU has condemned Tymoshenko's conviction as an example of selective justice and warned Ukraine that its members would not ratify agreements on political association and free trade as long as she remains in prison.
Amid talk of a possible boycott of the June 8 ceremonial opening by European politicians, Ukraine has accused of European powers of resorting to Cold War tactics.
Poland, for its part, has encouraged Ukraine's attempts to move closer to the European Union.
(Reporting by Maciej Onoszko Editing by Maria Golovnina)