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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST/KYIV (BosNewsLife)– Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has begun a hunger strike in protest of the government’s decision to suspend the signing a landmark trade agreement with the European Union.
Her announcement came amid more clashes in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv yesterday, where police fired teargas on demonstrators.
Tymoshenko declared in a statement “an unlimited hunger strike with the demand to President Viktor Yanukovich to sign the [EU] Association Agreement.”
She said her action was “a sign of unity” with pro-EU demonstrators, who have filled the streets of Kyiv. Her remarks, read out by defense lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko came while Ukrainian opposition leaders were reportedly denied access to Tymoshenko in hospital, where she is kept under guard. They were told the area was quarantined.
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of power, which west nations consider politically motivated.
JAIL FOR FREEDOM?
Last week, Tymoshenko said in an open letter she was ready to ask the EU to drop the demand for her freedom if it meant Yanukovych would sign the deal.
Analysts say Yanukovych has resisted the EU pressure, apparently fearing that Tymoshenko, whom he closely defeated in elections in 2010, would challenge him again in the 2015 vote.
Boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said he is hopeful that the EU has not given up on Ukraine. “After negotiations with many influential European politicians we are positive that Europe is still interested in Ukraine’s euro-integration,” he said.
“The doors have not been closed yet,” Klitschko added. “However, it depends on us if we will ever be a part of Europe or not. “
Yanukovich has said his decision to seek closer ties with neighboring Russia instead had been forced by economic necessity.
Officials say the president will still attend the European summit on Friday, November 29, in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Ukraine’s fate is to be decided. Demonstrators pledged to continue their protests until then, despite often pouring rain.