Europe

Stand-off over 'tortured' Ukrainian activist Dmytro Bulatov

  • 31 January 2014
  • From the section Europe

Medical workers have blocked police from questioning a Ukrainian protester who says he was abducted and tortured.

Dmytro Bulatov, who went missing for eight days, is being treated in hospital after claiming he was "crucified" by his captors.

He is on a government wanted list. Opposition activists said officers went to the hospital in Kiev to arrest him.

The police said they had opened an inquiry into his abduction and were trying to question him about that.

One interior ministry official said there were suspicions the abduction was faked as part of an attempt at provoking unrest.

Local reports later said the officers had left without questioning Mr Bulatov, but some police guards had been posted at the hospital.

Protests broke out in November, when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a deal with the EU in favour of a Russian bailout.

In mid-January, police and demonstrators clashed after the government passed a law severely restricting protesters' rights.

Mr Yanukovych has since ordered the law repealed, signed an amnesty for protesters and accepted the resignation of his cabinet.

'Death squads'

Mr Bulatov, who was found bloodied and bedraggled on the outskirts of the capital on Thursday, said he had been left to die by his captors.

"They crucified me, so there are holes in my hands now," he said.

"They cut off my ear, cut up my face. My whole body is a mess. You can see everything. I am alive. Thank God for this."

Vitali Klitschko visits Dmytro Bulatov in hospital
Opposition politician Vitali Klitschko visited Dmytro Bulatov in hospital (photo: Paul Ronzheimer, Bild Zeitung)
Protesters in Kiev, 31 January
Protesters remained on the streets of central Kiev on Friday

The activist reportedly said he did not know who had abducted him, but his abductors had spoken with Russian accents.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, who was at the hospital, said about 15 officers had turned up with a court order to serve on Mr Bulatov that would allow him to be taken into custody.

He labelled the episode "absurd" and said the investigators would not let him see the orders.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of another opposition party who earlier refused an offer to become prime minister, said protesters now faced "murders, abuse, torture [and] kidnappings"

"Recent events with Dmytro Bulatov are evidence of the fact that there are now death squads in Ukraine, like in Latin America," he said.

Wanted notice for Dmytro Bulatov on Ukrainian interior ministry's website
The interior ministry's website posted a wanted notice for Dmytro Bulatov

Amnesty International described Mr Bulatov's ordeal as a "barbaric act which must be investigated immediately".

The BBC's Duncan Crawford in Kiev says Mr Bulatov is the latest of a number of activists to have gone missing. At least one was later found dead.

Appeal from army

Meanwhile, the defence minister said in a statement that the army had urged Mr Yanukovych to take "urgent steps within the limits of existing legislation" to ease the crisis.

The statement said the military had labelled as "unacceptable" the occupation of government buildings by protesters.

Soldiers have not yet been deployed against the protesters during the crisis.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a tweet: "Ukraine's military is highly respected and must remain neutral. I continue to follow developments with concern."

Riot police face protesters in Kiev, 31 January
Riot police were deployed again to hold them back
Protesters in Kiev, 31 January
Protesters have been trying to keep warm with makeshift braziers