For eight days, people feared Dmytro Bulatov was dead. One of the leaders of protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the activist disappeared without trace on Jan. 22. Now he has resurfaced, but says he was subjected to horrific torture, including a crucifixion, while he was held in captivity by unknown men.
Bulatov was discovered in a village near Kiev late on Thursday. He said his kidnappers beat him severely, nailed him to a cross, sliced off a piece of his ear and cut his face. The 35-year-old is one of a number of car owners who have used their vehicles to block police and troop movements in an attempt to stymie the government response.
“They crucified me, they nailed down my hands… There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten,” he said on local television.
Bulatov’s face and clothes were covered in clotted blood, and his hands were swollen and bore the marks of nails.
Bulatov is now undergoing treatment for his injuries, and doctors were not letting journalists visit him in hospital on Friday.
However, in a video address posted on his Facebook page by a friend, he told of what had happened to him.
“I was brutally beaten, had a bag on my head, and was subjected to very severe tortures, but nevertheless they will not be able to intimidate us and we are not going to stop,” he said in the video.
His friend and fellow activist Oleksiy Hrytsenko wrote: “He is keeping well despite the fact that these bastards applied all kinds of torture to him.”
Bulatov’s reappearance comes at a key time in Ukraine’s political crisis, as Yanukovych signed into law a conditional amnesty for those involved in violence over recent weeks.
However, the protesters who have occupied central Kiev say they will accept nothing less than snap elections.
Both Bulatov and Hrytsenko are on a wanted list for organizing mass disturbances, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior told Ukrainian media he believed it was possible that Bulatov had staged his own kidnapping.
“This could have been staged as a provocation, in order to create negative emotions in society,” Oleg Tarasov said.
He added it was also possible Bulatov had been kidnapped over a financial issue.
The opposition dismissed these theories as nonsense and linked Bulatov’s kidnapping to a spate of sinister disappearances.
The case is reminiscent of the abduction of two other activists — Igor Lutsenko and Yuri Verbytsky — who were snatched from a hospital last week.
Lutsenko said both men were driven to a forest where they were interrogated and beaten.
Lutsenko managed to crawl out of the forest and make it to a hospital.
Verbytsky was later found dead in the forest, his hands tied behind his back and a bag on his head.
“They behaved during the interrogation like people who have been doing this for many years,” Lutsenko said last week about the men who captured him.
“What happened to Dmytro is an act of intimidation to all the protesters,” opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said after visiting Bulatov in hospital.