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February 1, 2014

Ukraine activist's story fuels torture squad fears

KIEV, Ukraine — The bloody images of Ukrainian opposition supporter Dmytro Bulatov, who says he was abducted and tortured for more than a week, have fueled fears among anti-government activists that extrajudicial squads are being deployed to intimidate the protest movement.

Bulatov, who was in charge of a vocal protest group before he disappeared Jan. 22, recounted a gruesome ordeal, saying his unidentified kidnappers beat him, sliced off part of his ear and nailed him to a door during his time in captivity.

“There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten. My face has been cut. They promised to poke my eye out. They cut off my ear,” Bulatov, 35, said Friday in a short video from his hospital ward. “They crucified me by nailing me to a door with something and beat me strongly all the while.”

The government has faced two months of major protests that started after President Victor Yanukovych backed out of an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union in favor of Russia. The demonstrations quickly grew into discontent over heavy-handed police, corruption and human rights violations.

Some opposition leaders believe the government will do anything to save itself, including sending brutal squads of torturers to quash the demonstrations.

Prominent opposition figure Oleksandr Turchynov accused the government of being behind the attacks on Bulatov and other activists.

“Ukraine has experienced a merger of law enforcement bodies and criminal structures, which function as a single entity that uses criminal structures to kill and intimidate and to set cars on fire,” Turchynov told reporters. “The authorities are using criminal structures to fight against the opposition and its own people.”

The Interior Ministry said it was investigating Bulatov’s story, but it also accused him of failing to cooperate. Oleh Tatarov, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s main investigative department, said Bulatov’s kidnapping could have been staged in order to create a provocation.

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