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Ukrainian Activists Home After Belarus Ordeal

Ukrainian Femen activists Aleksandra Nemchinova, Inna Shevchenko, and Oksana Shachko (left to right) speak to reporters at a hospital in the Belarusian town of Elsk on December 20.
MINSK -- Three Ukrainian activists who staged a topless protest in the Belarusian capital mocking President Alyaksandr Lykashenka have returned to Kyiv after allegedly being abducted, humiliated, and threatened by Belarusian intelligence officers, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says the three -- identified as Aleksandra Nemchinova, Oksana Shachko, and Inna Shevchenko -- returned to Ukraine earlier in the day in the company of Kyiv's consul to Minsk.

Colleagues from Femen claimed the three were kidnapped from a Minsk bus station after their December 19 protest and driven to a remote forest area where they underwent a terrifying ordeal.

Femen says KGB agents stripped them naked before dousing them with flammable liquid and threatening to set them on fire.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv on December 21, Femen activist Inna Shevchenko maintained that her group won't stop because of threats.

"If they think that by this bullying they will break us, in response I can only laugh," she said. "We promise that we will continue coming to Belarus. We promise to support the Belarusian people. We will continue our work, now with greater strength."

The Belarusian KGB has called the protest outside its offices an "especially crude provocation" but denied ever holding the activists.

Locals in Byaki, where they later turned up, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that the women had been left there and ordered to cross the border into Ukraine there.

Late on December 20, they were later said to be in Belarusian police custody.

Follow RFE/RL's Belarus Service's live updates on this story

Femen leader Anna Hutsol had described them as "alive but not in good health" and "very scared" in comments to RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

Femen sprung up in 2008 as a feminist rights group but has staged provocative stunts to focus media attention on an increasingly diverse range of international issues.

Bare-chested and wearing fake Lukashenka-style mustaches at the December 19 action, the women held placards that read "Freedom to political prisoners" and "Long live Belarus," a mantra of the protest movement.

Already notorious for their suppression of dissent, authorities in Belarus have clamped down further on public expressions of opposition since a flawed presidential election sparked street protests in December 2010.

with additional agency reporting
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