With the kick-off to Euro 2012 just 38 days away, there’s a storm brewing in one of the co-hosts, Ukraine.
Today’s Guardian reports that a diplomatic boycott of the event is being mooted by many European leaders.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she and her cabinet would not attend any games played in Ukraine, which is co-hosting the tournament with Poland, unless the human rights situation under President Viktor Yanukovych improved.
Since then, more politicians have expressed their reluctance to attend unless Ukraine freed the opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, was jailed for seven years in October after what her supporters claim was a politically motivated show trial.
Even Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister, called the campaign to free Tymoshenko “a political battle”.
In a letter published on Sunday in the Messaggero, Berlusconi wrote : “I remain convinced that Kiev authorities have a lot to gain if Ukraine presents itself as host of a large sports event with a decisive step forward in the field of human rights.”
And when Berlusconi starts complaining about the state of human rights in a country, then you know the situation must be grim.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that in the absence of all these European dignitaries, the number of available hotel rooms in Ukraine has literally doubled overnight.