KIEV  - Ukraine on Monday allowed jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to receive medical treatment outside prison amid widening European concerns for the former pro-Western prime minister’s health. But officials said she could not travel to Germany as requested and would have to see medics inside the ex-Soviet country - a condition previously rejected by the flamboyant former Orange Revolution leader. The general prosecutor’s office said Tymoshenko could undergo observation and treatment in a “specialised medical facility” selected by the Ukrainian health ministry.
The ministry in turn said it was “recommending” that she be sent to a special back pain centre in Kharkiv - the eastern Ukrainian city that also houses Tymoshenko’s female penal colony.
The bed-ridden Tymoshenko had earlier asked for treatment on her ailing back in a German clinic. Berlin said on Saturday it was in talks with Kiev and sounded an optimistic note that its request would be met.
The high-profile case and prosecution of her other allies have forced the European Union to delay the signing of an agreement with Kiev that would have served as a stepping stone for Ukraine’s eventual membership in the bloc.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has pronounced himself committed to closer relations with Europe and rejected charges that he his administration had jailed Tymoshenko as a personal vendetta against a chief rival.
His office issued a statement on Monday saying Yanukovych was interested in broader judicial reforms but had no intention of speaking to Germany about the release for treatment of a single inmate.
Western doctors who examined Tymoshenko earlier this year found that she suffered debilitating pain from a slipped disk that threatened to lead to other damage if left untreated.
Her supporters also claim that Tymoshenko is refused proper care from prison doctors and is forced to stay in a room with permanently switched-on lights as a form of punishment for her political views.
The opposition leader’s attorney said Tymoshenko still had no trust in the local authorities and gave no indication as to whether she would accept the authorities’ offer of treatment on Monday.
But Ukraine’s Deputy Health Minister said Raisa Moiseyenko said Tymoshenko had told her personally earlier in the day that she was ready to be seen by Ukrainian doctors.
“Yulia Volodymyrivna (Tymoshenko) has agreed,” Moiseyenko told reporters.
The charismatic but divisive leader is serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of abusing her power while serving as premier.
She has refused prison care and accused Ukrainian doctors of bias and working under the orders of Yanukovych - a more Russia-friendly powerbroker who defeated her in a bitterly-fought 2010 race.
Tymoshenko was detained in August and jailed in October over her decision to sign a 10-year gas deal with Russia that was considered unfavourable to Ukraine.
She is also being investigated in a number of other probes that she describes as personal revenge by Yanukovych.