Ukrainian Opposition Leader Tymoshenko Starts Jail Hunger Strike

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed Ukrainian opposition leader, started a hunger strike, claiming mistreatment and abuse during her incarceration and accusing President Viktor Yanukovych of political persecution.

Tymoshenko began the strike on April 20 after she was attacked by three men, who pulled her out of bed, hit her in the stomach and forced her to be hospitalized near the eastern city of Kharkiv without her consent, she said today in a statement on her website.

Tymoshenko, who has back problems, said she refused to be transferred to a hospital before talking to her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, on April 23. She was returned to her jail cell the next day. Kharkiv prosecutor Hennadiy Turin denied Tymoshenko was beaten while being transported to the hospital, according to a statement on the website of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Tymoshenko, a 51-year-old former prime minister, was sentenced in October to seven years for abuse of office when she signed a 10-year natural-gas supply and transit pact with Russia in 2009. She said Yanukovych engineered the case to keep her from taking part in parliamentary elections scheduled for October. The European Union has sought her release.

Yanukovych defeated her in the last presidential election. Tymoshenko, who said her political adversary is “building a concentration camp,” urged the international community to put pressure on the president “otherwise you will have a Libya or a Syria in the center of Europe.”

She also called on Ukrainians to use the elections to “remove Yanukovych’s regime.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at