Lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko, speaking outside the walls of Yuliya Tymoshenko's prison in Kharkiv, told Interfax news agency that the ex-Prime Minister began a hunger strike last Friday.

BBC news reports that Mr Vlasenko was quoted by Interfax as saying Tymoshenko was protesting against "what is happening in the country and what is happening to her in prison".

She had, he said, suffered bruising to her arms and stomach as a result of being moved from the prison to a hospital on Friday. The lawyer denied his client had refused to allow doctors to examine her but he added that she had been put in hospital against her will. "She is currently unable to get out of her bed", he said.

There was no immediate confirmation of Ms Tymoshenko's hunger strike from the prison authorities, but the Deputy Governnor of the prison categorically denies that there was any assault on Ms Tymoshenko and says that if further accusations are made, the authorities will consider legal proceedings, reports the BBC Ukrainian service.

The day before she was taken to hospital, Tymoshenko had been due to attend a new trial for tax evasion which allegedly occurred while she was heading the Energy Corporation of Ukraine at the beginning of 2000. However, she refused to attend, citing problems with her health. Earlier proceedings against her were dropped for lack of evidence in 2005 but have now been reopened.

In the meantime, members and ex-members of the Prosecutor's office are arguing amongst themselves about the tax evasion charges and whether they were dropped as a result of political pressure. The Chief Prosecutor at the time, Svyatoslav Piskun denies the accusation and says it was simply a matter that, after 9 years' of investigating, no illegal acts were found.

Ukrayinska Dumka


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