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Abducted Kyiv Activist 'Crucified,' Tortured; Police Put Him On 'Wanted' List

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Missing activist Dmytro Bulatov turned up in a village near Kyiv on January 30, saying he had been abducted and tortured.

Missing activist Dmytro Bulatov turned up in a village near Kyiv on January 30, saying he had been abducted and tortured.

A prominent Ukrainian antigovernment activist who disappeared more than a week ago has turned up in a village near Kyiv, saying that he was kidnapped and tortured by unknown men who spoke with Russian accents.

Dmytro Bulatov, the 35-year-old spokesman for the Automaidan protest group, was reported missing on January 23 after disappearing on January 22 -- just after two other opposition activists were abducted, one of whom was later found dead in a forest near Kyiv showing signs of being tortured.

Bulatov was taken to a Kyiv hospital after turning up on the night of January 30. He was being treated for injuries from apparent beatings and torture -- including a badly lacerated ear and puncture wounds on his hands and reportedly his feet.

Bulatov told colleagues that his abductors had hung him up in a manner similar to a crucifixion before eventually taking him down, throwing him into a car, and dumping him in the countryside.

Bulatov, blood caked on his face and head, spoke to journalists on the night of January 30. "I was crucified," he said. "My hands were pierced. They cut my ear. They cut my face. There is no spot on my body that is not injured. You can see yourself. But I am alive, thank God."

Bulatov said that, after he was abandoned in freezing temperatures on the night of January 30, he managed to walk to a nearby village where he telephoned friends who took him back to Kyiv.

Later on January 31, the Interior Ministry placed Bulatov on its wanted list for involvement in "mass riots."

Police and prosecutors visited the hospital where Bulatov is recovering. Supporters were also gathering at the clinic, fearing he may be arrested.

Serhiy Poyarkov, an artist, Automaidan activist, and friend of Bulatov, spoke early on January 31 to RFE/RL outside the hospital in Kyiv where Bulatov was admitted and provided more details of his condition.

"He has no fractures, no concussion," he said. "He was cut, severely beaten, and humiliated. He was kept without food for the last few days. [His captors] wanted to know where our funding was coming from. He was tortured for a long time. They wanted to know who is financing us. He recognized all of us. He has bruises on his shoulders. His ear and [part] of his cheek were cut. His hands and feet were nailed. He was crucified and tortured all these days."

WATCH: Dmytro Bulatov talks to reporters after his ordeal (in Ukrainian).

Bulatov disappeared one day after another abducted opposition sympathizer, Yuriy Verbytsky, was found dead in a forest near Kyiv on January 22 with broken ribs and traces of duct tape on his hands and clothes.

Verbytsky had gone missing on January 21 together with his friend Ihor Lutsenko, an opposition journalist and a key figure in the two-month-old Euromaidan protests.

Lutsenko resurfaced the next day with a black eye and a knocked-out front tooth -- saying that he and Verbytsky had been abducted by a gang of unknown men before being beaten and left to die in the countryside.

On January 31, Amnesty International called Bulatov's treatment "a barbaric act" and demanded an immediate investigation.

“It is very hard to see a way out the current crisis when such horrific abuses against protest organizers are taking place," Amnesty said in a statement, while also referring to the Verbytsky case.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said she is "appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment" of Bulatov.

In a statement issued on January 31, Ashton said people like Verbytsky "have paid with their lives for exercising their civil rights."

She said added that it was the Ukrainian authorities' responsibility to "take all necessary measures to address the current atmosphere of intimidation and impunity which allows for such acts to take place."

Ashton, who visited Kyiv earlier this week to try to defuse the ongoing crisis, said "all unlawfully detained people have to be released and the perpetrators brought to justice."

The UN human rights office and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, also called for thorough investigations and for those responsible to be punished.

Amnesty International called it a "barbaric act" that must immediately be investigated.

Bulatov's protest group, Automaidan, comprises motorists who joined together in late November to support Ukraine's European integration and to counter police assaults against pro-EU demonstrators in their standoff with Yanukovych and his political allies.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN's high commissioner for human rights, also said the recent deaths of at least four antigovernment protesters should be "promptly, thoroughly, and independently investigated."
The popularity of the 5,000-member group and the rapid-response network it has set up to rescue demonstrators from police violence have propelled Automaidan to the forefront of Kyiv's ongoing protests.
Automaidan activists routinely meet with opposition leaders, address protesters on Kyiv's Independence Square, and have held talks with U.S. and European envoys.

WATCH: Locals Recount Finding Abducted Ukrainian Activist
With reporting by the "Kyiv Post"

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