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At Euro 2012, Denmark and the Netherlands pressure Ukraine on gay and human rights

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Denmark and the Netherlands ramped up pressure on Ukraine over gay and human rights concerns as a prelude to their nation's teams competing in the Euro 2012 soccer finals on Saturday, various media report.

Sports ministers representing both European powerhouses conducted three hours of talks on gay and human rights, homophobia, police brutality and other issues in Kharkiv in the former Soviet Union state.

Ukraine has a dismal record on gay and human rights under President Viktor Yanukovich, and most European nations are wary of Ukraine's bid to join the European Union.

The sports ministers met with Ukrainians who allege to be victims of torture and in the city where popular opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is imprisoned. Great Britain, Germany and France have protested the government's treatment of the opposition leader.

Edith Schippers, the Dutch Health and Sports Minister, told Reuters:

"Our role in the European Union is to push for change by the politicians in the country. The people I have spoken to today show that you can be randomly arrested and tortured. ... That is not a sign of a civil law state that wants to be part of the EU."

Uffe Elbaek, the Danish Health and Sports Minister, told Reuters:

"I feel I can help active human rights organizations in Ukraine by meeting them. ... The second reason (for the visit) is that sport should not be mixed with political conflicts and politics should not be mixed with sport."

Tanya Mazur, Amnesty International's Ukraine director, told Reuters about LGBT issues:

"There's no understanding here of LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender) in society, government and parliament. It's really not good."

On June 6, SDGLN published a story about All Out activists denouncing attempts by Ukraine's government to pass laws to make "gay" illegal, a la Russia. Among those condemning the proposed laws was Marcus Urban, German's first openly gay pro football player.