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Dispatches: Missing Ukraine Activist Found Beaten

Ever since I learned last week that Dmytro Bulatov, a leading Ukrainian activist and a father of three small kids, had disappeared,I have not stopped worrying about whether he was dead or alive. The same day that Bulatov disappeared, another “Maidan” activist, Yuri Verbitsky, had been found dead. Verbitsky was missing for two days before his body was found, dumped in the woods.

 Bulatov was found on January 30 at around 7 p.m., when he called his friends from the village in the same suburb of Kiev where Verbitsky’s body was found. Bulatov told his friends that on the 30th, his captors took him to the forest and left him there, blindfolded in sub-zero temperatures. Eventually, he managed to find his way to a nearby village and call for help.

His lawyer, Dmytro Yovdi, told Human Rights Watch that Bulatov had numerous cuts and bruises on his face and body and a laceration on his right ear. He is being treated at a hospital in Kiev. He still has trouble seeing because he remained blindfolded for eight days.

Bulatov told his friends that he was abducted in Kiev on January 22 after he left his car and was walking down the street to a store. He was hit on the back of his head and blacked out, he said. He said he did not know where he was taken and that he was beaten every day by several men. Several times, the men asked him questions related to the demonstrations, such as, “Who sponsors the Maidan protests?” and, “Is the US behind this?”

Another activist, Igor Lutsenko, also survived a brutal kidnapping and beating. We do not know who kidnapped and attacked these activists, but we do know that all three are prominent leaders of the movement on Independence Square. There is no evidence yet directly linking their attackers to law-enforcement. But it is hard to believe that all of them became victims of random criminal acts during the same week of intense confrontation between the protesters, street fighters, and the authorities.

The police said they’ve opened an investigation into Bulatov’s abduction, but at this point, this alone is not enough. Political leaders also need to engage to make clear the abductions must stop. Ukrainian authorities should issue a statement, condemning the abductions and promising justice, whoever the attackers are. And Ukraine’s international partners should hold them to this promise.

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