Ukraine on Thursday denounced a threatened EU boycott of its Euro 2012 football matches as a "destructive" attempt to politicise sport that will hurt mutual understanding and ties.
The furious statement came moments after the European Union confirmed that all its commissioners would skip next month's football events in the country to protest the treatment of its jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko.
Russia's president-elect Vladimir Putin had earlier in the day attempted to defuse the escalating crisis by offering to receive Tymoshenko for treatment should the Ukrainian authorities agree to let her travel to Russia.
But the suggestion met no immediate response from Kiev and may not be accepted by the 2004 Orange Revolution leader herself.
The authorities instead dug in for diplomatic warfare by accusing EU leaders of ignoring the interests of not only Ukrainians but all Eastern Europeans with their boycott call.
"We view as destructive attempts to politicise sporting events, which since ancient times have played a paramount role in improving understanding and agreement between nations," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in statement.
"An attack on this big dream undermines the chances of... all the former Socialist Bloc members to prove that their economic, human and scientific potential can turn them from the debtors of Europe to its engine of growth."
Tymoshenko's plight gained added European attention after she launched a hunger strike on April 20 to protest her alleged beating by three wardens in a prison where she is serving a controversial seven-year term.
The charismatic but divisive 51-year-old's supporters later posted pictures of bruises on her stomach they said confirmed her claims.
Those images were soon splashed across newspaper pages and were followed by European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso's decision to skip the games Ukraine starts co-hosting with Poland on June 8.
The shock announcement and earlier boycott of a Yalta conference by the German president set in motion a mass European boycott campaign that is now wreaking havoc on the biggest event in Ukraine's post-Soviet history.
Austria has since said it too will skip all matches hosted by the nation of 46 million while reports in Berlin said Germany may follow suit.
At least seven EU heads of state are further shunning a summit to be hosted by President Viktor Yanukovych in Yalta this month.
Barroso's office had never explicitly tied his decision to Tymoshenko's prosecution and treatment.
But the EU mission in Kiev issued a firm statement on Thursday saying "no one can be in doubt about the EU's position on the untenable situation of Yulia Tymoshenko."
"We believe... that in this particular moment it would not be appropriate to attend matches in Ukraine while these concerns remain."
Ukraine on Tuesday was also harshly criticised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But Europe's football governing body has steadfastly refused to move the games out of Ukraine while Putin rallied to his neighbour's defence by saying he disagreed with EU states' attempts to mix politics with sport.
"I believe that under no circumstances can one mix politics, business and other such issues with sport," Russia's strongman leader said.
The tournament's co-hosts Poland have also been pleading with EU leaders to save the tournament amid media speculation that it might have to be delayed by up to a year.
"I understand the politicians who stand in solidarity with Tymoshenko," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.
"Nothing is stopping us from showing this solidarity clearly and strongly during the sporting event itself," Tusk said.
A group of Swiss and Ukrainian lawmakers is trying to get Tymoshenko to Switzerland for medical treatment.
The Switzerland-Ukraine Parliamentary Group has written a letter to the Swiss government asking it to propose the idea to Kiev, Swiss news agency ATS reported Thursday.