, Ukraine, Nov 16 – Jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday agreed to end her hunger strike, her doctors said, more than two weeks after she began her protest over alleged fraud in polls won by the country’s ruling party.
The ex-premier and 2004 Orange revolution leader has been refusing food since October 29 as she serves out a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office which she says is part of a political vendetta by her arch-foe President Victor Yanukovych.
“From tomorrow (Friday), she will stop her hunger strike,” her German doctor Lutz Harms said, according to an Interfax news agency report.
“She is very weak,” added Harms’ colleague Annette Reischauer.
Shortly after, Tymoshenko’s Ukrainian doctor Irina Foursa said the opposition leader has finally begun eating on Thursday.
Ukraine’s deputy health minister Raissa Moisseenko said Tymoshenko had made her decision after seeing her German doctors.
Ukrainian doctors also have been urging Tymoshenko to end the hunger strike which she began on October 29, and in recent days, she began showing signs that she was ready to begin taking food again, said the minister.
Tymoshenko has been in hospital for a bad back she developed shortly after being sentenced in October. Harms said the hunger strike was not helping her recovery.
“This hunger strike is certainly a step backwards,” he said.
The German physician also urged Ukraine to improve hospital conditions for Tymoshenko, including ending a video surveillance of the opposition leader.
“An important condition for treatment is confidence between the doctor and his patient,” he said.
The United States and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a global body that monitors voting around the world, have expressed concern that the elections were a step backwards for democracy in the ex-Soviet country.
A Ukrainian court on Tuesday again delayed Tymoshenko’s new trial on embezzlement and tax evasion charges, setting a new date of November 23.
A judge in this eastern city, where she is serving her sentence, said he could not hear the case in Tymoshenko’s absence.
The trial has already been delayed several times for to various reasons.
The new case relates to her time in the 1990s as head of Ukraine’s top gas trading company. Previous government probes into her leadership role there had been dropped and charges dismissed.
The conviction of the former Orange Revolution leader in October last year sharply worsened Ukraine’s ties with the West and exposed President Yanukovych to accusations he was persecuting political opponents.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cited Tymoshenko’s detention as one of the reasons why “democratic progress appears to have reversed” in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections.
Tymoshenko insists she is a champion of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union but critics have accused her of ruthless pragmatism, changing her beliefs with the political winds.
Born in the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine, Tymoshenko won prominence and allegedly huge wealth in the chaotic 1990s as head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, which imported Russian gas.