May 9, 2012 / 12:29 PM / 7 years ago

Euro 2012 co-host Poland prods Ukraine on Tymoshenko

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland urged Ukraine on Wednesday to drop laws allowing politicians to be jailed for decisions in office, seeking to ease a row over the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko that could mar the Euro soccer championship the two will co-host soon.

The escalating controversy over the treatment of the main political rival of President Viktor Yanukovich has prompted several European leaders to say they would boycott Euro matches taking place in Ukraine starting next month.

“In my view, this would not have happened if outdated regulations that contradict European standards by allowing prison sentencing for political decisions were phased out in time,” Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said.

“That’s why I appeal to the Ukrainian authorities and all Ukrainian political powers...with concern for upholding Ukraine’s European chances to eliminate these regulations from Ukrainian law and (this) bad practice from Ukrainian political life as soon as possible,” he told a news conference.

Yanukovich was forced to call off a regional summit scheduled for later this week when several European leaders pulled out in protest after Tymoshenko launched a hunger strike and said she was beaten by prison guards.

She was moved to a local hospital on Wednesday and her daughter Yevgenia said she would end the hunger strike.

The charismatic Tymoshenko, a former prime minister sentenced to seven years in prison on a conviction of abuse of power while in office, denies the accusations, which her allies see as a political vendetta waged by Yanukovich.

The European Union and the United States have condemned her trial and sentencing as politically motivated and called for her to be released.

Komorowski warned that the issue could prevent the EU from ratifying a bilateral trade agreement with Ukraine.

Poland, which in 2007 won the right to co-host the European soccer championship, fears the dispute could stall its eastern neighbor’s troubled quest for closer ties to the EU.

Warsaw has long spearheaded efforts in the EU to promote democratization in Ukraine and facilitate links between the ex-Soviet republic and Brussels. The snowballing dispute over Tymoshenko now also risks hurting Poland’s image within the EU.

Komorowski reiterated his earlier criticism of the planned boycotts.

“It’s about not letting this fight ruin our joint Polish-Ukrainian sports celebration and a Polish-Ukrainian project that was meant to and should still help Ukraine on its path towards European integration,” he said.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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