UK ministers to boycott Euro games
England has become the latest country to announce it will not send government officials to the Euro 2012 soccer tournament amid allegations of human rights abuse in Ukraine.
The British Foreign Office announced the move Thursday, following the lead of Germany and France.
"The government fully supports England's participation in Euro 2012. We hope this is a successful tournament for the England team, the fans, and the people of Ukraine and Poland. However, no ministers will be attending group games at Euro 2012," read a statement from the Foreign Office.
"We are keeping attendance at later stages of the tournament under review in the light of ministers' busy schedules ahead of the Olympics and widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine."
Ukraine, which is co-hosting the tournament with Poland, has come under fire for the treatment of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and concerns of racism throughout the former Soviet nation.
Tymoshenko, a pro-Western opposition leader to current Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, was sentenced in October to seven years for abuse of authority over gas contracts agreed to with Russia in 2009. The case drew international outrage with observers saying her prosecution was politically motivated.
Tymoshenko reportedly has struggled with medical problems since being incarcerated and has complained of rough handling by her guards. She briefly staged a hunger strike in April to protest her detention.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Kiev called England's decision "emotional," adding the move damages the sport.
"The boycott of the sporting event that has nothing to do with politics is a sign that the British government is inclined to resort to emotional rather than deeply calculated steps," Oleg Voloshyn told the Guardian Thursday. "[They] damage football but don't influence in any positive way the situation with the issue that concerns London."
In addition to Germany and France, other European leaders, including European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt have also pledged to skip matches held in the country.
The group stages of Euro 2012 begin Friday.