A leading Ukrainian opposition activist who vanished for eight days has emerged bloodied and badly beaten, saying his captors cut off an ear and drove nails through his hands before dumping him in a forest.
Dmytro Bulatov, a 35-year-old member of the opposition movement involved in street protests against President Viktor Yanukovych, appeared with his face swollen and caked in blood on Ukrainian television after going missing from Kiev on January 22.
Speaking slowly and visibly shaken by his experience, Bulatov said his unknown captors blindfolded and abused him before dumping him in a forest outside the Ukrainian capital, from where he was able to make his way to a nearby village.
“My hands … they crucified me, nailed me, cut my ear off, cut my face,” Bulatov told Ukraine’s Channel 5 television, still wearing his blood-soaked clothes and pointing to holes on his palms. “Thank God I am alive.”
“I can’t see well now, because I sat in darkness the whole time,” he said, adding that he was unable to see his captors.
Bulatov’s account drew immediate international condemnation, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who warned Ukrainian authorities not to target key activists that “must immediately be stopped”.
“I’m appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment” of Bulatov, she said in a statement, calling it another incident in “continuous deliberate targeting of organisers and participants in peaceful protests”.
Amnesty International said the “barbaric act” must be investigated, adding that it is only one of several cases of similar disappearances.
The United Nations’ human rights office on Friday also called on Ukraine to launch an independent probe into deaths, kidnappings and torture amid the raging political unrest.
The US Embassy in Kiev posted a picture of Bulatov with a blackened gash on his cheek and said that “the government of Ukraine must take full responsibility for the timely investigation, capture, and prosecution of those responsible for this heinous crime”.
It further voiced concern over reports of 27 more missing activists, in a statement posted on official Facebook page.