Ukraine activist tells story of ambush and captivity

‘There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten,’ protester says of ordeal


Dmytro Bulatov

KYIV — Dmytro Bulatov, 35, went missing in Kyiv on January 22. A week and a day later, the anti-government protester was found. Badly beaten, his face is marbled with bruises. He has deep wounds in each hand.

“They crucified me, they nailed down my hands,” he told Ukrainian television on Friday morning. “They cut off my ear, they cut my face. There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten.”

Sergey Poyarkov, who works with Bulatov to plan demonstrations, told Maclean’s the unknown captors demanded to know who was financing their activism. “They can’t understand that it’s nobody. There is no party, no organization behind us …We started from nothing.”

Bulatov and Poyarkov are founders of “Automaidan”—a spinoff of “Euromaidan,” the mass anti-government protest movement that broke out in Kyiv in November.

Automaidan began, effectively, as a roaming protest-on-wheels. Motorists arrive in a convoy at the homes of government officials — including President Viktor Yanukovych. “Glory to Ukraine,” they cry. “Gang out!” Sometimes the protesters throw eggs.

Automaidan set up a hotline to mobilize car owners —there are thousands, Poyarkov says— who deliver supplies to demonstrators, guard the square, provide lifts to Kyiv and “drive around, seeing what authorities are doing.”

Poyarkov says his goal is to turn government into “a mere laughing stock.” The government has responded with legal and physical force. In mid-January parliament passed laws, one of which bans motorists from convoys of more than five. (There are stories of nervous Ukrainians attending funerals on foot.)

Bulatov was found January 30 near Boryspil, a Kyiv suburb. He told journalists he’d been tortured and interrogated for more than a week before he was dumped alone in the countryside. He’d been missing since January 22 when police ambushed an Automaidan motorcade in Kyiv.

On Friday evening, a tussle broke out at the hospital where Bulatov is being treated. Police were barred from questioning the activist. Opposition party deputies have vowed to remain by Bulatov’s bedside.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said she was “appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment.”

President Yanukovych was not available to comment on the abuse. On Thursday, the 63-year-old leader announced he was ill with “respiratory illness and high fever” and was taking a sick leave.

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Ukraine activist tells story of ambush and captivity

  1. Nice picture and nice make up. The cast is missing though.

  2. Something fishy about this story. First, Bulatov claims to have had his hands nailed to a door, but look at the photo–no sign at all that there’s anything wrong with his hands. No wound, no blood, no bandages. And wouldn’t the first thing that medics would do is wash the blood off his face so as to be able to see his head wounds, but here he is with Klitschko having been notified and having travelled to his bedside, and his face is still unwashed. I heard him state in a video that his ear had been cut off, but the ear that I see seems to be intact.

    I’m all for documenting the terrible things that the Putin-backed Yanukovych administration is doing, as anyone can see at http://www.xoxol.org/putin/putin45.html

    But I’m also very much in favor of rejecting fraudulent accounts.

    • Lubomyr, you see one picture and you make such large statements?? A video showing him talking clearly shows his right ear being cut off as well as blood on the inside of his hands. In this picture he actually is cleaned up and washed compared to how he looked when he was first found. As to Alex: open your eyes, educate yourself on what governments have done in the past to keep power and kidnapping and torturing will not be such big surprise.

      • The claims of nailed hands and an ear cut off are indeed false, and are being retracted. Now we hear of Bulatov only having been hung by the wrists and having only a part of his ear cut off.

        The initial exaggeration may originate not with Bulatov but with bad translation and journalistic embellishment. What I hear Bulatov saying in a Guardian video is that he was held spread-eagle, which someone might translate as his being crucified, and with his being crucified on a door or on a cross being an elaboration that never came out of his mouth. Similarly, the difference between being cut and being cut off was possibly lost in translation.

        None of this challenges Bulatov’s being abducted and emerging from the experience with serious injuries. I was merely questioning the two extreme claims that were initially the only ones made, and that today are being moderated.

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