By Svetlana Kalmykova
In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg on Thursday, the European Parliament rejected an official boycott of matches of the 2012 World Soccer Championships in Ukraine. At the same time, the resolution urged all European politicians who will travel to Ukraine to visit political prisoners there and express concern about the human rights situation in the country.
The resolution was the latest in a series of documents on Ukraine issued by the European Parliament in the past couple of years. The European MPs are especially concerned about human rights abuses and corruption in Ukraine, as well as the case of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. In October 2011, a Ukrainian court sentenced her to seven years in prison after she was found guilty of abuse of office when brokering the 2009 gas deal with Russia.
In a show of protest against Timoshenko’s imprisonment, a number of European politicians earlier refused to travel to Ukraine which will host a spate of matches of the Euro-2012. On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande, who is an avid football fan, made it plain that he may skip matches with the participation of his country’s national team in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the city of Donetsk. For their part, the European MPs said their ”No” to the organization of official boycott of Euro-2012 in Ukraine, a decision that was made after the foreign ministers of 27 EU countries failed to reach a consensus on the matter.
Moscow-based political analyst Sergei Chernyakhovsky, in turn, warned against boycotting Euro-2012 matches in Ukraine, a move that he said will be counterproductive. “In the long run, they are punishing the Ukrainian people, not President Yanukovich”, Chernyakhovsky said, adding that ordinary Ukrainians will unlikely change their attitude toward Timoshenko due to the boycott.
Meanwhile, Kiev has declared its readiness to consider the European MP’s demands and make the relevant amendments to the Ukrainian legislation.
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against politicizing the Euro-2012. Commenting on the Timoshenko case, he said that no violations were made during the signing of the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas agreement, something that Putin said has been confirmed by prominent lawyers.