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Ukraine activist sees pro-Russia link in abduction

February 15, 2014

BERLIN (AP) — Ukrainian opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov said Saturday he believes a pro-Russia group was behind his kidnapping and torture last month.

Bulatov went missing on Jan. 22 and resurfaced a week later, badly bruised and with part of his right ear cut off, raising fears among opposition activists that violent mobs were being used to intimidate anti-government protesters.

Bulatov, who has been receiving treatment abroad, told reporters in Berlin that he was blindfolded while his captors violently interrogated him, apparently at pains not to break any bones.

“Those who kidnapped me spoke Russian, with Russian accents,” he said. “Even though my eyes were covered I knew they were professionals.”

While protests have been strong in the capital, Kiev, and western Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych retains support in the mainly Russian-speaking east and south.

Bulatov said his captors asked him whether his group, Automaidan, was influenced and funded by the U.S., which he denied. They also asked him about the car convoys Automaidan organized to picket the homes of powerful government and business figures, including Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a pro-Russia political organization.

“I assume this was done on the orders of Medvedchuk,” Bulatov said about his kidnapping. “That’s only a suspicion.”

Medvedchuk was the chief of staff for former President Leonid Kuchma. He now heads the civic group Ukrainian Choice, which has lobbied against closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union, and in favor of joining a Russia-led customs union instead. Medvedchuk is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bulatov said he is unable to return to Ukraine because of criminal proceedings against him there, and that he may seek asylum in the EU. In the meantime, he hopes to organize Automaidan protests in European cities where members of the Ukrainian leadership have homes or businesses, “to cause maximum discomfort to those in power.”

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