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Kharkiv, Ukraine -
Jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has agreed to end her hunger strike, her doctor said on Thursday, over two weeks after she stopped eating in protest at alleged fraud in polls won by the country's ruling party.
The ex-premier and 2004 Orange revolution leader has been refusing food since October 29 as she serves out a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office which she says is part of a political vendetta by her arch-foe President Victor Yanukovych.
“From tomorrow (Friday), she will stop her hunger strike,” her German doctor Lutz Harms said, according to an Interfax news agency report.
“She is very weak,” added Harms' colleague Annette Reischauer.
Ukraine's deputy health minister Raissa Moisseenko said earlier on Thursday that Tymoshenko had agreed to end her hunger strike which she began on October 29 after meeting the German doctors.
Harms urged Ukraine to improve hospital conditions for Tymoshenko, including ending a video surveillance of the opposition leader.
“An important condition for treatment is confidence between the doctor and his patient,” he said.
Tymoshenko has been in hospital for a bad back she developed shortly after being sentenced in October.
The United States and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a global body that monitors voting around the world, have expressed concern that the elections were a step backwards for democracy in the ex-Soviet country.
A Ukrainian court on Tuesday again delayed Tymoshenko's new trial on embezzlement and tax evasion charges, setting a new date of November 23.
A judge in this eastern city, where she is serving her sentence, said he could not hear the case in Tymoshenko's absence.
The trial has already been delayed several times due to various reasons.
The new case relates to her time in the 1990s as head of Ukraine's top gas trading company. Previous government probes into her leadership role there had been dropped and charges dismissed.
The conviction of the former Orange Revolution leader in October last year sharply worsened Ukraine's ties with the West and opened President Yanukovych up to accusations he was persecuting political opponents.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cited Tymoshenko's detention as one of the reasons why “democratic progress appears to have reversed” in Ukraine's parliamentary elections.
Tymoshenko insists she is a champion of Ukraine's integration with the European Union but critics have accused her of ruthless pragmatism, changing her beliefs with every breath of the political wind.
Born in the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine, Tymoshenko won prominence and allegedly huge wealth in the chaotic 1990s as head of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, which imported Russian gas. - Sapa-AFP