Sports Minister Ueli Maurer will not join other European politicians in boycotting the Euro 2012 football championships, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland.
Maurer will attend the opening match between Greece and Poland in Warsaw on June 8 but he is not scheduled to travel to Ukraine, the cause of the controversy. His spokeswoman said on Tuesday that Maurer believes it is “not appropriate” to abuse sporting events for political purposes.
On Monday, European Union Commission President José Manuel Barroso and other European leaders piled pressure on the leadership in Kiev in support of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Barroso says he will not go to Ukraine during Euro 2012 unless there is a swift improvement in the human rights situation there.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding is skipping the ceremonial opening and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s environment minister has urged top European government officials to boycott the Euro 2012 matches held in Ukraine.
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Merkel would abstain from attending any matches in Ukraine and urge her cabinet members to do so as well unless Tymoshenko is freed to undergo medical treatment abroad.
Activists have called for protests against Ukraine where Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail sentence in a case the West and her supporters have said is politically motivated.
Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshin tried to downplay the announcements.
“I hope that German statesmen won’t reactivate the methods of the Cold War and try to make sports a hostage to politics,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Switzerland did not qualify for the 16-team tournament.
swissinfo.ch and agencies