YULIA Tymoshenko's daughter has issued an emotional appeal to the leader of Ukraine to free her jailed mother and prevent a Europe-wide boycott of the Euro 2012 football tournament.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Yevgeniya Tymoshenko, 32, called on President Viktor Yanukovych to release her mother and other alleged political prisoners before the competition starts on June 8.
"There is still time for Yanukovych and his regime to change their ways and for him to use his constitutional powers to solve this political crisis within a month. He has the powers to do so," she said.
Kiev faced mounting pressure on Wednesday when Holland and Austria announced that no government officials will travel to the Euro unless Mrs Tymoshenko's conditions and treatment improve, after reports she was roughed up in jail.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is thought to be considering a similar boycott. European Commission head José Manuel Barroso has already refused to attend the tournament, and six European presidents decided not to travel to a summit in Ukraine next week. Germany has also said it may block a pending EU-Ukraine political and trade deal if Kiev is seen to be showing contempt for the rule of law.
European leaders criticised the jailing of Mrs Tymoshenko, 51, in October last year, saying it looked like politically motivated revenge by Mr Yanukovych, her rival.
But the scandal intensified last week when the politician, who may have a herniated spinal disc, claimed she had been beaten by prison guards in her cell in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, where she is serving out seven years for abuse of office.
Mrs Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike since she was allegedly assaulted on April 20. She wants to be treated abroad for her back pain.
Speaking by telephone from Kiev, the politician's daughter said: "Yanukovych could release political prisoners within a few days and stop this absurd political repression from continuing and save the lives of people in prison. He should do this for the sake of the Ukrainian people. The European Championship can still be enjoyed by people as a celebration of sport and freedom."
Asked if Prime Minister David Cameron should join other European leaders in refusing to travel to the Euro tournament, Ms Tymoshenko said: "These calls for boycotts are a way for Europeans, for democratic leaders to protest against the way that my mother and other politician prisoners are being treated, which has now reached the point of physical violence.
"For Ukrainian people it's very frustrating and painful to see our country being isolated. If your prime minister chooses a boycott then we will support this and be in solidarity with him, if that is his way to support the prisoners and prevent them being killed."
Ms Tymoshenko said she had last seen her mother on Saturday. "She was weak because of the pain that's been caused to her spine after she was beaten and forcefully moved to hospital. She can't move that much. She's just drinking water and taking painkillers."
Ukrainian prosecutors have denied that prison guards struck Mrs Tymoshenko but admit that bruises on her stomach and arms may have been caused by her knocking against "blunt objects" as she was moved.
She refused treatment at the clinic she was taken to in Kharkiv and was returned to jail.
Among members of Mrs Tymoshenko's government now in jail and also considered political prisoners by their supporters is Yury Lutsenko, former interior minister. He was sentenced to four years for embezzlement and abuse of office in February.