His story reads like the plot of a Soviet era movie. The disgruntled proletariat gathers in the town square to protest unfair economic conditions. Huddled against the winter cold in canvas tents, they sing songs and drink wine. Then, in the dark of night, a leader of the merry group is kidnapped. He is beaten, tortured, an ear cut off, his hands pierced like Jesus. He is forced, on camera, to confess to being a spy for the capitalists, after which, his tormenters toss his bloodied, shattered body into a frozen forest. Dmytro Bulatov, is now a hero to protesters gathered on the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kiev, Ukraine, and his abductors’ tactic of torture, to discourage and discredit him, has backfired.
Bulatov’s January 22nd disappearance was being investigated as a homicide by Kiev police, when on January 30th, he was found, battered but alive, in the Boryspil District outside the city and initially taken to a Kiev clinic. On February 2nd, he was flown to a hospital in Lithuania for treatment.
In addition to the Van Gogh ear and stigmata, Bulatov suffered a concussion, fractured arms and numerous lacerations, but he appears in good spirits and his body is healing. Meanwhile, for Ukraine protestors back on the Maidan, Bulatov’s ordeal has catapulted him to fame, and his kidnappers’ use of torture to exact a false confession from one of their leaders, has backfired gloriously.
Ukraine has long been split between eastern, haves and western have-nots. Under the Soviet Union, eastern Ukraine, where most people speak Russian, received the lion’s-share of investment for infrastructure and education. Western Ukraine, where Ukrainian is the official language, has been neglected for generations and lacks universities, factories and other building blocks for growth. Thus western Ukrainians have long looked westward to Europe for their salvation.
Peaceful protests in Ukraine began in November of last year, when President Viktor Yanukovych shelved an agreement that would have led to greater support from the European Union, and instead turned to Russia for a financial bail-out.
In mid-January Yanukovych’s government passed a series of 11 harsh anti-protest laws. Subsequently, special forces clashed with demonstrators. Several people were killed, hundreds were wounded and hundreds more were arrested, thus radicalizing a previously peaceful movement. In an effort to quell discontent, on January 27th, Yanukovych repealed nine of the 11 anti-protest laws.
Prior to the outbreak of violence, demonstrators were demanding early parliamentary elections, as a cure for widespread corruption, but Yanukovych, through his use of repressive tactics, has made himself their target. Protesters are now demanding early presidential elections, as well.
Bulatov claims his abductors spoke with Russian accents and forced him to confess on camera that he had accepted money from someone at the American Embassy, which appears to have been an attempt by Yanukovych and his Russian friends to make the United States the scapegoat for their troubles.
Approximately one year ago, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee published an exhaustive examination on the efficacy of torture. The 6,300-page report concluded that “enhanced interrogation” tactics utilized by the CIA from 2001 to 2006 produced no appreciable results. Had President Yanukovych and his friends read at least an executive summary of that report, they might have been spared a bit of embarrassment, since the choice to kidnap and torture the now celebrated protest leader Bulatov has backfired in their faces.
by Melissa Roddy