Eugenia Tymoshenko, daughter of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kiev. Picture: Sergei Chuzavkov

Kharkiv - A Ukrainian court began hearing an appeal on Tuesday by jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to relax her detention conditions, two months into a protest movement she has vocally supported.

Lawyers for Tymoshenko applied to the court in the eastern town of Kharkiv, where the former prime minister is being held, to allow her to use a mobile telephone, have more visitors and take walks around the town.

Tymoshenko did not attend the hearing but journalists and supporters holding banners reading “Stop persecuting Yulia” packed out the courtroom.

Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 for seven years for abuse of power and has spent much of her sentence in a guarded hospital facility due to back problems.

Prosecutors urged the court to reject the appeal, arguing that an earlier decision by prison authorities to refuse to ease Tymoshenko's conditions in custody was “legitimate”.

Tymoshenko's fate has been at the heart of a tussle between Kiev and the European Union.

EU officials made allowing her to go abroad for treatment a key condition for a historic deal with Ukraine that President Viktor Yanukovych rejected under pressure from Russia.

That move threw the ex-Soviet nation into its worst crisis since independence, sparking months of sustained demonstrations aimed at pressuring Yanukovych to step down. - AFP