The bloodied appearance of a badly maimed opposition protester on Ukraine television has sent shock waves through the international diplomatic community.
As foreign ministers gathered late on Friday in Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference, the issue was a top focus of discussion on the sidelines.
EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, who plans to return to Kiev next week in her ongoing attempt to mediate the growing conflict in Ukraine, said she had met with members of the Ukrainian opposition in Munich.
At issue was the high visibility case of badly injured Dmytro Bulatov, an activist who said that his captors kept him in a dark room and partly cut off his ear. So far, four protesters are confirmed to have been killed during the weeks of protests, three of them by bullets. A fourth was found dead in a woods with signs of torture, after he had been kidnapped from a hospital treatment area.
“I am particularly appalled by the cruel treatment and torture of Dmytro Bulatov and reports that there are attempts to arrest him from his hospital bed,” Ms. Ashton said. “This is completely unacceptable and must stop immediately.” German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, who discussed Mr. Bulatov’s case with his Ukraine counterpart Leonid Kozhara, urged Ukraine to allow Mr. Bulatov to be brought to Germany for medical care.
Mr. Steinmeier “insistently” pressed Mr. Kozhara to allow “the badly injured, clearly apparently tortured and traumatized” Mr. Bulatov to travel to Germany if he wishes so, according to information from informed persons near to Mr. Steinmeier.
After meeting with Ukraine opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Mr. Steinmeier called the situation in the country “extremely complicated.” In Washington, the White House said it was “appalled by obvious signs of torture” inflicted on Mr. Bulatov.
Spokesman Jay Carney said it was “especially concerning” that some reports indicate the involvement of security forces.
“It is urgent that the government use all available resources to investigate these horrific crimes and hold accountable those responsible,” Mr. Carney said.
Earlier on Friday, the Ukraine Interior Ministry said it was investigating the Bulatov case and that it did not rule out that it was a “staged provocation”. The ministry also said that doctors in a Kiev hospital where he was being treated did not let investigators speak to Mr. Bulatov.
An amnesty for anti-government protesters and a repeal of anti-protest measures were signed into law by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday, a move seen as a major concession to demonstrators.
However, it was not clear if the repeal went far enough, as protesters rejected a key stipulation of the deal and the country’s military called for the government to take urgent measures for “stabilization and reconciliation.” On Saturday, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, the former world boxing champion, is to pariticpate in a podium discussion with Mr. Kozhara at the Munich conference.