MOSCOW — Ukrainian protest leaders learned Friday that one of their number, missing for more than a week, had turned up in the woods outside Kiev, his ear and cheek deeply slashed, the blood caked on his face. He had puncture wounds in his hands and told friends that his abductors had crucified him.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, was an organizer of what is called the AutoMaidan, a group that got together convoys of cars to spread the continuing protest in Ukraine and to target the residences of leading government figures.
He disappeared Jan. 23, a day after two other abducted protest leaders, Ihor Lutsenko and Yuriy Verbytsky, had been found, also beaten and also in the woods. Verbytsky had frozen to death.
Bulatov managed to call friends in Kiev late Thursday, and they retrieved him and took him to a hospital. He told them that he didn’t know his abductors but that they kept asking the same question Lutsenko said his kidnappers had asked him: Who is paying the demonstrators?
He also said they spoke with Russian accents.
“He has no fractures, no concussion,” Serhiy Poyarkov, an AutoMaidan activist, told Radio Liberty early Friday after talking with Bulatov. “He was cut, severely beaten and humiliated. He was kept without food for the last few days.
“He was tortured for a long time. They wanted to know who is financing us.”
The Interior Ministry announced Friday that Bulatov was refusing to cooperate with an investigation into his abduction and had been placed on a list of people who are barred from leaving the country.
Bulatov’s disappearance — and the reported disappearance of perhaps dozens of others — is one of the reasons the opposition has been unwilling to vacate the public buildings it occupies in exchange for amnesty, under a bill signed into law Friday by President Viktor Yanukovych despite his decision to take a sick leave with what authorities say is a respiratory infection.
The president has also signed a bill repealing a set of harsh laws that had been passed Jan. 16 to repress free speech and assembly. But that has done little to mollify the wary opposition.
On Thursday night, as many as two dozen cars bearing license plates from Lviv, a hotbed of anti-government sentiment, were torched in Kiev. Opposition leaders blamed police-hired thugs known as “titushki.”
After the resignation earlier in the week of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, no new government has been formed. Distrust is mounting, and the opposition says it fears that the ruling Party of Regions will ram appointments and changes through parliament just as it did the stringent anti-protest laws.
On Friday, the Defense Ministry, which has said it will not intervene in the political crisis, called on Yanukovych to take “urgent” steps to prevent the country from unraveling. In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he feared Russia would intervene after the Olympics, leading to a surge of refugees into his country, according to Polish radio.