By Olzhas Auyezov
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine, crying foul over its elimination from the European soccer championship, will be challenged next week to show its own commitment to fair play when jailed prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko resumes her legal battles.
A number of European politicians have boycotted Euro 2012 matches in the former Soviet republic in protest at Tymoshenko's jailing last October which the West sees as an example of selective justice.
Next week, Tymoshenko, the key opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, will seek to have her seven-year sentence overturned while defending against a new tax evasion charge in trials that could shape Ukraine's relations with the European Union for the coming years.
So far, pressure from the EU, which has urged Tymoshenko's release and shelved landmark deals on free trade and political association with Kiev over the issue, has had no effect.
Yanukovich has said he will not intervene before all the trials and appeals are over while Ukrainian prosecutors have heaped fresh charges on her, saying they suspected Tymoshenko of involvement in a 1996 contract killing.
Tymoshenko, 51, who is now being treated for back trouble in a state-run hospital, has dismissed all charges against her as part of a personal vendetta by Yanukovich, who, in turn, says his government is merely fighting corruption.
Ukraine's co-hosting of the Euro 2012 soccer championship has diverted attention from internal problems.
If any injustice has been felt it has been over a disallowed goal which handed England victory over Ukraine and eliminated the host nation from the competition.
Despite being locked up, Tymoshenko has made her presence felt at Euro 2012 matches with some fans wearing "Free Yulia" T-shirts.
Because of the boycott by some foreign leaders, Yanukovich has mostly shared his VIP box at matches with political allies, local government officials and representatives of European soccer body UEFA.
Tymoshenko has been convicted for abusing her power as prime minister when brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia which Yanukovich's government says saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant fuel price.
It is not clear if she will attend either the tax evasion trial in the city of Kharkiv, where her prison and hospital are located, on June 25 or the appeal trial in Kiev the following day.
Ukraine's state prison service said on Friday Tymoshenko was awaiting advice from a German doctor who will treat her on Sunday.
"The defense will insist that Tymoshenko had committed no crime," her lawyer Olexander Plakhotnyuk told reporters on Thursday.
But analysts say both trials are likely to be adjourned again and resume after the end of the soccer championship.
"I do not think this story can take a sharp turn during Euro 2012 when so many eyes are on Ukraine," said political analyst Mykhailo Pogrebinsky.
Another analyst, Volodymyr Fesenko, also expected proceedings to be adjourned.
"Handing down a sentence that keeps Tymoshenko in prison would be bad for the authorities during Euro 2012 and it is very unlikely she will be acquitted," he said.
Tymoshenko, who shot to international fame for helping lead the 2004 Orange Revolution protests which derailed Yanukovich's first bid for presidency, served twice as prime minister.
After losing the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovich, Tymoshenko and a number of her cabinet's members faced corruption-related charges which she described as repression against opposition.
Her case has threatened to undermine Ukraine's efforts to present itself as a rightful member of the European mainstream by co-hosting the continental soccer championship together with Poland.
The French government has said it would boycott Ukrainian soccer venues even if France made it into the final on July 1 in Kiev. Other EU countries have said they may follow suit.
(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
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