Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the braided darling of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, is wasting away in prison — weakened from a hunger strike, bruised from prison beatings and afraid she will be force-fed by her political foes, her family said.
Western concern about Tymoshenko has soared since she launched a hunger strike a week ago to protest alleged prison abuse. She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for debilitating back pain.
The opposition leader’s party claimed that a string of bombings on Friday that injured dozens in eastern Ukraine and that authorities blamed on terrorists might have been orchestrated by the government to deflect attention from her plight.
It is a dramatic reversal for a woman who became a global icon of democratic change during Ukraine’s 2004 rallies against a stolen presidential election, in which she mesmerized the nation with ringing speeches from a frozen Kiev square as thousands of protesters huddled in a tent village.
Tymoshenko appears pallid and worn-out in photographs of her lying in prison taken by Ukraine’s top human rights official — a shadow of the glamorous figure who once faced crowds in haute-couture gowns and golden braids.
The pictures by Nina Karpachova show blotches on Tymoshenko’s abdomen and lower arm.
Her daughter said on Friday that her health was failing rapidly.