The former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been put on trial for new tax evasion charges despite concern about her health in prison.
Tymoshenko, the country’s top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year prison term after being convicted of abuse of office in a case the west has condemned as politically motivated.
Prosecutors have also charged Tymoshenko with evading taxes while heading an energy company in the mid-1990s. She denies the charges against her but did not appear in court in Kharkiv because of a severe back problem.
Tymoshenko says the charges are part of a campaign by the president, Viktor Yanukovych, to bar her from politics. Yanukovych narrowly defeated her in 2010 presidential elections.
Dr Karl Max Einhaeupl of Berlin’s Charite clinic, who has examined Tymoshenko, told the Russian state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper that she was suffering from a herniated disc, was in intense pain and needed urgent treatment at a specialised medical facility.
“I can tell you with full confidence: she is ill,” Einhaeupl was quoted as saying in the paper. “She practically cannot move and is reduced to lying down most of the time.”
Bowing to western pressure, Ukraine‘s government has offered to treat Tymoshenko at a hospital in Kharkiv, but Tymoshenko said she would only agree to the treatment if the hospital was approved by her German doctors.
The Ukrainian health ministry on Thursday cited a report by Einhaeupl and his colleagues saying the hospital met European medical standards.