Thursday, April 17, 2014


Ukraine

Abducted And Left To Die: Euromaidan Supporter Found Dead In Forest

Yuriy Verbytsky
Yuriy Verbytsky
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By Claire Bigg and Iryna Shtogrin
Yuriy Verbytsky, 50, was a respected seismologist who shared the aspirations of many Ukrainians to join the European Union.

A passionate alpinist and the father of a grown-up daughter, Verbytsky had been bringing warm tea to protesters camped out for more than two months on Kyiv's Independence Square to protest the government's decision to shelve a key EU deal.

On January 22, he was found dead in a forest outside the Ukrainian capital with broken ribs and traces of duct tape on his hands and clothes.

His niece, Oksana Verbitska, told RFE/RL that the family "are shocked by what happened. We simply can't understand why innocent people are being dealt with so cruelly."

Verbytsky went 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, a knocked-out front tooth, and a chilling story to tell.

According to him, Verbytsky sustained an eye injury on January 21 as clashes between riot police and a hard core of radical protesters continued to rage in central Kyiv.

In Focus: Far-Right Ukrainian Opposition Group Vows 'Guerrilla' War'

He says both of them were kidnapped by a group of unidentified men as Verbytsky sought treatment for his injury at a local hospital.

Lutsenko says they were thrown into a van and taken to a forest near Kyiv, where they were locked up separately in an abandoned building.

He says he was beaten, questioned, forced to his knees with a bag over his head and asked to pray in what he describes as a mock execution.

'Police Style'

Although Ukraine's Interior Ministry has denied being involved in the attack, Lutsenko believes his abductors have ties to the police.

He told Ukraine's Hromadske TV: "This was definitely done in police style. These people effectively interrogated us. They repeatedly asked me, for instance, how Euromaidan was operated and who financed it."

"On the other hand, I don't think that [President Viktor] Yanukovych and those on his side lack this information, they can clearly obtain it from different sources."

Lutsenko was eventually released, but Verbytsky did not make it alive.

He is believed to have frozen to death.

The horrifying case has sparked fear among protesters and journalists, and brought back painful memories of journalist Heorhiy Gongazde's abduction and killing in a forest outside Kyiv in 2000.

Last month, Tetiana Chornovol, an investigative reporter at the newspaper founded by Gongazde, was pulled out of her car and brutally beaten.

Several other journalists, including RFE/RL reporters, have sustained injuries at the hands of riot police while covering the Euromaidan protests.

Ukrainian RFE/RL Journalists Describe Beatingsi
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January 20, 2014
Two RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalists were beaten and detained by police while covering antigovernment protests on January 20. After their release, correspondent Dmytro Barkar and cameraman Ihor Iskhakov described the events. (Video by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)
(WATCH: RFE/RL Journalists Describe Beatings)

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