April 28, 2012 in Nation/World

Icon of Ukraine change failing in prison

Hunger strike over alleged beatings saps Tymoshenko
Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this photo provided by Ukrainian Pravda taken Wednesday in Kachanovskaya prison, Yulia Tymoshenko shows her injuries to a human rights official.
(Full-size photo)

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.

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