’Crucified’ Ukraine activist arrives in Lithuania for treatment

  • 2014-02-03
  • From wire reports, VILNIUS

Dmytro Bulatov claims he was tortured for his role in the Ukraine protests (pic: twitter)

A Ukrainian protester whose account of torture has shocked Europe arrived in Vilnius late Sunday, hours after a Kiev court ruled that he could leave the country for treatment.

Dmytro Bulatov left Ukraine following intense pressure by Western leaders after he appeared on television, his face swollen and caked in blood. He claims he had been kidnapped and tortured over his role in protests that have rocked the country.

An ambulance took Bulatov directly from Vilnius airport to a hospital in the city after he arrived late Sunday by air from Kiev via Riga.

Bulatov is a leader of the "Automaidan" movement, which has organized protest motorcades outside President Viktor Yanukovych's sprawling country estate near Kiev and has been targeted by police.

The 35-year-old father of three said he was "crucified" by unidentified kidnappers who drove nails through his hands and cut off part of his ear while they held him for eight days following clashes in Kiev.

"They crucified me, nailed me, cut my ear off, cut my face," Bulatov said on "Channel 5" television shortly after his release in his only public comments so far.

His bloodied face sparked outrage, with the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying she was "appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture".

Lithuania vowed last month to provide free medical assistance to Ukrainians injured in violent protests in Kiev, and Bulatov will be the third to take up the offer.

Over the last few days, protesters outside Bulatov's clinic physically prevented police from entering with a formal order for Bulatov to appear in court on charges of "organizing mass disorder" in Kiev. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Pro-opposition tycoon Petro Poroshenko and other protest leaders had said at a demonstration in Kiev earlier on Sunday that they would "liberate" him. They then traveled to the clinic as riot police gathered outside but a confrontation was averted when a Kiev court gave the go-ahead for Bulatov to leave the country despite the pending charges against him.

Thousands of demonstrators remain on the streets in the Kiev calling for the resignation of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The protests come after the Ukrainian leader refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union last year.