KIEV, Ukraine - Lithuania's president has warned Ukraine it could become isolated by the West over the imprisonment and deteriorating health of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Dalia Grybauskaite spoke late Friday after visiting Tymoshenko in a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv, where the opposition leader was moved this week to be treated for a severe spinal condition. Afterward, Grybauskaite met with Ukrainian counterpart President Viktor Yanukovych and relayed to him the European Union's concerns over Tymoshenko's condition.
Tymoshenko, 51, is recovering from a nearly three-week long hunger strike in protest at an alleged beating by prison officials. In a photograph released by Grybauskaite's office, the Lithuanian president is seen holding Tymoshenko's hand as she lay in a hospital bed, looking weak, emaciated and pale.
Grybauskaite said during the meeting with Yanukovych she had praised the Ukrainian authorities' decision to allow Tymoshenko to be treated under the supervision of a German doctor, but added that it was "only the first step on the path towards European values."
She said she had told Yanukovych that "if a solution on the treatment and legal guarantees is not found for all the imprisoned opposition members and all other people, not just the opposition, there will be a critical attitude towards this country and, of course, one or another level of isolation is guaranteed," Grybauskaite told reporters.
Ukraine has come under intense Western pressure over the jailing and loss of health of Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven year sentence on charges of abuse of office. Washington and Brussels have condemned the verdict as politically motivated and pressed for her release. Tymoshenko has charged that Yanukovych, her longtime foe who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential vote, threw her in jail to bar her from October parliamentary elections.
A number of top EU officials and governments have vowed to boycott European football championship matches hosted by Ukraine in June in protest over the Tymoshenko case. Yanukovych this week had to cancel a summit for Eastern European leaders after most refused to attend.
But Yanukovych has so far refused to bow to Western demands to free Tymoshenko, saying he was not involved in her prosecution and that his government was only fighting corruption. On Friday, he said that that the current "pause" in Ukraine-EU ties may actually benefit the two sides by giving each more time to ponder their relationship.
From her prison cell, Tymoshenko has urged Ukraine's fragmented pro-Western opposition unite and join forces in the October election. Opposition parties were holding a forum in Kyiv on Saturday to discuss such plans.