Ukraine scraps Yalta summit after boycott

Ukraine on Tuesday shelved a summit of Central European leaders it was to host this week after most participants pulled out in protest over the treatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The summit, originally set to be hosted by President Viktor Yanukovych in the Crimean resort of Yalta on Friday and Saturday, was to be a showpiece event one month before Ukraine co-hosts the Euro 2012 football.

"In connection with the fact that a number of European leaders are unable to take part in the Yalta summit for different reasons, Ukraine has decided to postpone it to a later date," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"It will be held at a later date to be decided through diplomatic channels," it added.

At least 10 EU leaders had officially announced they would not be attending the summit, leaving Yanukovych facing the prospect of hosting an embarrassingly lonely meeting with a handful of fellow heads of state.

EU heavyweight Germany was the first country to announce a boycott, although Ukraine's Euro co-host Poland had steadfastly insisted that it would be attending.

The EU Commission has said all EU commissioners will also boycott matches hosted by Ukraine in the Euro itself and Germany has not ruled out such a move for its ministers, in what would be a huge blow to Ukraine.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October on charges of abuse of power while in office, after a trial that was bitterly criticised by the West as appearing politically motivated.

The controversy has intensified in recent weeks as the countdown begins to the championships, with Tymoshenko going on hunger strike and claiming to have been beaten by guards at her prison in Kharkiv.

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