KIEV: The daughter of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko says her mother's life is now at risk after President Viktor Yanukovich "crossed a fine line" when he rejected all early chances of compromise to free her.
In an interview, Yevgenia Tymoshenko urged the West to consider applying personal sanctions against officials of the Yanukovich leadership, such as visa bans, to stop it driving Ukraine further into isolation in Europe.
Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's arch-rival who was twice prime minister, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office following a trial widely seen as a settling of scores between rival groups of influence in the ex-Soviet republic.
The United States and the European Union say the trial was politically motivated; in December the EU withheld completion of agreements on political association and a free trade zone with Ukraine in protest over her jailing.
But despite diplomatic pressure from EU countries for her release, fresh criminal cases have been opened against her by justice officials and she has been moved from police detention in Kiev to a remote prison camp some 500 km (310 miles) east.
"It (the situation) is unpredictable now ... They have crossed the line where my mother's life now is at risk," said Yevgenia, speaking in English in Kiev at the riverside headquarters of her mother's party, Batkivshchyna.
"This line is a kind of fine line and once the regime crossed it we do not know now what could be the consequence of this war ... against political opponents. The regime is doing all it can to break her morale, to break her psychologically."
Tymoshenko's husband, Olexander, took asylum in the Czech Republic earlier this month out of fear he also was about to be arrested, leaving the English-educated, 31-year-old Yevgenia the only close relative left in Kiev.
Yevgenia, who is married to a British rock singer, now makes a six-hour car trip from Kiev to the prison in Kharkiv twice a week to see her mother, whose health and conditions are the subject of an information battle between her lawyers and officials.
Yevgenia says her mother is in constant pain from a recurring back problem and has not been able to get up unaided since early November.
"The health ministry denies this. They say she does not require medical treatment, that she needs exercise. When I see her, I have to pick her up. I have to move her, to help her stand up and it is evident that any slight movement causes very sharp pain," she said. "She is much paler and weaker."
The family has also complained that she is under constant surveillance from a video camera with a light on in her cell round the clock.
"The video camera is a microscopic one that can see what she is writing in bed. Whatever she writes they can see and this causes a lot of psychological, moral strain ...," said Yevgenia.
The charismatic 51-year-old Yulia Tymoshenko, a political power-house, was the field marshal of the Orange Revolution street protests which thwarted Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency in 2005.
Though self-confident and equally stylish, Yevgenia is far less forceful than her mother and denies media reports that she has ambitions to step into her mother's shoes.
"I am far from being a public person. I see my mother continuing her political career ... She is the one in our family who is going to continue this," she said.
All the same, she does not shy from criticizing the Yanukovich leadership's record, repeating the mantra of her mother that its policies are alienating Ukraine within Europe.
"It seems like there are deliberate attempts by the Yanukovich regime to isolate Ukraine from the European Union," she said. "Only some direct action now can signal to the Yanukovich regime that they are going in the wrong direction."
She urged the West to restrict access to visas and foreign bank accounts for senior Ukrainian officials and investigate high-level corruption. "The only way to change the way the regime is acting now is by direct sanctions ... some sort of personal pressure," she said.
Tymoshenko was convicted of exceeding her powers as prime minister by railroading through a gas deal with Russia in 2009 which the Yanukovich leadership says saddled Ukraine with a huge price for gas that has become a millstone for the economy.
Political insiders say her prosecution was driven by Yanukovich who has been Tymoshenko's political enemy since the Orange Revolution overturned his election as president.
He later made a comeback and narrowly beat Tymoshenko for the presidency in 2010 after a bitter campaign.