A dodgy affair: on the Bulatov case

February 3, 2014

Believe the protest leader's story or not, the response of Ukraine's authorities is suspicious


Dmytro Bulatov, leader of AvtoMaidan, the motor wing of the Euromaidan protests, appeared on 30 January after 8 days in the dark. He claimed he had been kidnapped and severely tortured, then dumped in a forest to let die. He said he miraculously made it to a nearby village and from there, with the help of locals, to hospital. Pictures of his slashed face and ear have duly circled the world.


Ukraine’s authorities have made their scepticism about Mr Bulatov’s story very clear. If their line of argument is to be given any credit, the (since the resignation of the cabinet on 28 January, former) foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara judges from nothing more than the global public. Yet he asserted confidently that “the only thing [Mr Bulatov] has is a scratch on his face”. 


Manners and general solidarity aside: would it not be the government’s fundamental duty, if it were to seek credibility, to take such claims seriously and follow them up, rather than shake them off at first sight? One sees the strained situation on the streets and one has seen the undeniable violence of Ukraine’s Berkut special forces - who have been called ‘pure sadists’ - earlier on. How is, then, the critical observer to give any credit to the authorities if they do not show the smallest disposition for self-reflection: investigation of possible abuses and, if necessary, admission of guilt? Guilt that, it seems to me, is next to unavoidable in such a situation.


The officials’ sceptical, cynical, hostile reaction, combined with the appearance of police at the hospital in an attempt to arrest the severely injured Mr Bulatov, is at least very suspicious. If President Yanukovych is preparing to act upon Putin’s adviser Sergey Glazev’s advice and  crush Euromaidan with force, he is doing it rather badly.


Due to the presence of fellow protesters at the Kiev hospital where he was treated, Dmytro Bulatov escaped arrest. He is now receiving medical attention in Lithuania, which has offered to treat injured demonstrators.


Follow me on Twitter @radnotiandras

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