Dmytro Bulatov speaks to journalists after being found near
Kiev. REUTERS/via Reuters TV
Ukrainian opposition leaders have rushed to the hospital
bedside of an anti-government activist who was held for a week
by kidnappers who badly beat him, after police went there in
what the opposition said was a move to arrest him.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, one of the leaders of anti-government
protest motorcades called 'Automaidan', turned up on Thursday
(local time) with his face badly beaten and with wounds to
During a week of being confined, he was tortured by his
kidnappers, who had "crucified" him, he told Ukraine's
Channel 5 television.
Bulatov is on a police wanted list on suspicion of taking
part in "mass disorder" - which carries a sentence of up to
eight years - linked to participation in the motorcades.
Police said they went to the Kiev clinic where Bulatov was
being treated for his injuries and a police statement later
said Bulatov was under police protection.
Opposition leaders, including boxer-turned-politician Vitaly
Klitschko, said however that police had intended to arrest
him but had been thwarted by doctors who quickly called
opposition leaders to the scene.
"The police are trying to provoke further escalation of the
conflict and increase tension in society. Instead of
searching for those guilty for the disappearance and torture
of one of the leaders of the 'automaidan'," Klitschko's UDAR
(Punch) party said in a statement.
"The police are trying to make a criminal of him."
Attempts to arrest Bulatov had been thwarted by the quick
response of doctors, another opposition leader, far-right
nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok, told reporters.
Opposition deputies would take shifts to protect Bulatov
against the police overnight, he said.
Bulatov, whose disfigured and swollen face was replayed on TV
screens throughout the day, said: "They crucified me. They
punctured my hands," and he pointed to marks on the backs of
his hands. "They cut off my ear, slashed my face.
"But I am alive, thank God."
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton said she was said she was appalled by signs of torture
inflicted on Bulatov. "All such acts are unacceptable and
must immediately be stopped," she said in a statement.
Bulatov was reported missing on Jan. 23. He was involved in
several motorcade protests in which scores of cars would
drive to the homes of Ukrainian leaders. The 'automaidan' is
a word play on Maidan, the Kiev square that is a focus for
In the biggest motorised protest, about 2,000 cars drove to
the country residence of President Viktor Yanukovich at
Mezhyhirya, outside Kiev, on Dec. 29. They came within 300
metres (yards) of his residence before being stopped by
Traffic police have begun to try to identify participants in
the 'automaidan' protests and protest groups say that about
20 people so far have been detained for questioning.
News of Bulatov's kidnapping and injuries emerged ahead of
another weekend of protest rallies in Kiev though organisers
have discouraged people from turning out because of a cold
spell that has sent night temperatures plunging to 18 Celsius
(30 Fahrenheit) below freezing.
The protests began after Yanukovich rejected an EU trade deal
last November in favour of closer ties with Moscow and a
financial bailout from Russia. They have since spiralled into
a public show of anger against perceived misrule and