Despite concessions made by President Viktor Yanukovich, protesters refuse to back down.
A Ukrainian anti-government activist who disappeared a week ago has appeared on television, his face badly beaten and with wounds to his hands, saying his abductors had “crucified” him.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, who was one of the leaders of anti-government protest motorcades called ‘Automaidan’, was taken to hospital after he appeared on Ukrainian TV 5th channel.
“They crucified me. They punctured my hands,” he said on Friday, pointing to marks on the backs of his hands.
“They cut off my ear, slashed my face. There’s not a single alive spot on my body. But I am alive, thank God,” he said.
The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, called for an investigation into claims of torture in Ukraine.
Bulatov was reported missing on January 23. He was involved in several motorcade protests in which scores of cars would drive to the homes of Ukrainian leaders.
In the biggest such protest, about 2,000 cars drove to the country residence of Yanukovich at Mezhyhirya, outside the capital Kiev, on December 29.
They came within 300 metres of his residence before being stopped by security roadblocks.
Traffic police have begun to try to identify participants in the ‘automaidan’ protests and protest groups say that about 20 people so far have been detained for questioning.
Bulatov’s reappearance came two days after the prime minister, Mykola Azarov, offered his resignation in a bid to ease the two-month crisis.
Army wants ‘urgent steps’
Ukraine’s army meanwhile called on embattled President Viktor Yanukovich to take “urgent steps” to ease the political crisis in the ex-Soviet country.
“Laying out their civil position, servicemen and employees of Ukraine’s armed forces … called on the commander-in-chief to take urgent steps within the limits of existing legislation with a view to stabilising the situation in the country and reaching consent in society,” a statement from the defence ministry said on Friday.
It was not immediately clear what the army would do if the president, on sick leave after respiratory issues, did not heed the call.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, who visited Bulatov in hospital, said: “What was done to Dmytro was an act to frighten all citizens who are being active now.”
A friend of Bulatov’s said: “We know that they [his abductors] did not feed him. We know that they abandoned him in a wood and we know he managed then to get to a village.
“He was able to call friends,” said Yuri Zozulya.
Yanukovich, 63, went on sick leave on Thursday, leaving a political vacuum in a country threatened with bankruptcy and destablised by anti-government protests.
The protests began after Yanukovich rejected an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with and a financial bailout from Russia.