KIEV, Ukraine – Yulia Tymoshenko, the braided darling of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution who went on to be prime minister, is wasting away in prison – weakened from a hunger strike, bruised from prison beatings and afraid she will be force-fed by her political foes, her family said Friday.
Western concern about Tymoshenko has soared since she launched a hunger strike a week ago to protest alleged prison abuse. She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for debilitating back pain.
It is a dramatic reversal for a woman who became a global icon of democratic change during Ukraine’s 2004 rallies against a stolen presidential election, in which she mesmerized the nation with ringing speeches from a frozen Kiev square as thousands of protesters huddled in a tent village.
Tymoshenko appears pallid and worn-out in photos of her lying in prison taken by Ukraine’s top human rights official – a shadow of the glamorous figure who once faced crowds in haute-couture gowns and golden braids.
Her daughter told the Associated Press that her health was failing rapidly.
“She was in intense pain,” Eugenia Tymoshenko said in a telephone interview. “She is very weak, she hasn’t eaten for seven days, only drinking water.”
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers in a Russian energy deal. The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.