Beaten to Death in Ukraine: A Staggering List of Protester’s Injuries
Euromaidan activist Yuri Verbitsky’s cold, tortured body was found in a forest in Ukraine, where it had been dumped after assailants abducted him. Verbitsky had gone to Oleksandrivska Hospital in Kiev on Jan. 21 to get treatment for an eye injury sustained during a clash with police. Shortly after arriving, he and fellow activist Igor Lutsenko were accosted and stuffed into a minivan by a group of unknown men.
Lutsenko surfaced later that day, badly tortured but alive. Verbitsky’s body was found the next day.
Though he bore signs of a brutal beating and still had duct tape on his face and body, police and Interior Ministry officials ruled hypothermia as the reason for Verbitksy’s death.
New information from Ukrainian MP Alexander Doniy now officially contradicts that story. Doniy posted a staggering list of injuries to his Facebook page on Monday that speaks for itself about the brutality Euromaidan protesters are facing from government authorities, Berkut and their pro-government associates.
“Here is a list of Yuri Verbitsky’s injuries (after he was kidnapped and killed by a death squad),” Doniy wrote on his Facebook (translated). “How can they say he died in the forest of hypothermia?”
· Bruising/injury to soft tissue on left forearm and a fractured ulna
· Internal chest trauma
· Bruising on the right side of the torso and into lumbar area
· Bruising on the ribcage
· Fracture of the sternum in four places and severe internal hemorrhage
· Six broken ribs
· Bruising above and below the right eye, with an additional open wound on the upper eyelid. Abrasions below the left eye
· Abrasion injury on the nose
· Open wound on the upper lip
· Bruising and soft tissue damage on the right wrist
· Abrasion injuries on the fingers of both hands
· Severe abrasion injury on lower legs and both kneecaps
· Abrasions on the forehead
· Bruising of the right hip and pelvis
Lutsenko, the survivor, told Mashable that their torturers “used instruments like wooden and metal sticks” and “were very experienced kidnappers and torturers.”
“This must have been part of their jobs for many years,” he said. In another interview, Lutsenko describes the Berkut as authoritarians with nothing to lose, who approach the protesters with a no-holds-barred violent mentality. “They have to kill people to save their own lives. They think if the opposition prevails they will all be killed,” he said.
The prosecutor general of Ukraine has said that Berkut officers who participate in law enforcement raids should have identification numbers on their uniforms. This was back in mid-December. Nearly two months later, that’s unfortunately not a reform that has been passed into law, and activists are still disappearing.
A Human Rights Watch report says the abductors of Lutsenko and Verbitsky were possibly working with Ukrainian police. They interrogated the activists about who finances Euromaidan and the movement’s future plans.
The thuggish treatment of activists and dissidents is certainly in line with previous stories from Ukraine, like the coordinated beating of journalist Tetyana Chornovol, assaulted after her online posts disparaging the interior minister. Riot police were the confirmed assailants who attacked a group of protesters on Jan. 20, including 17-year-old Mikhailo Niskoguz, who was beaten, stabbed, tortured and stripped naked in subzero temperatures. That humiliation tactic by the police has been used on other protesters as well (as documented on video here), and led to the resignation of at least one whistle-blowing cop.
Dmitry Bulatov, the 35-year-old spokesman for Automaidan (think Euromaidan with cars blockading government buildings), was also abducted, kidnapped and tortured. He went missing one day after Verbitsky’s body was found, and activists feared the worst. Bulatov turned up on Jan. 30 and spoke to the media last week of his literal crucifixion: “My hands were pierced. They cut my ear. They cut my face. There is no spot on my body that is not injured. You can see yourself. But I am alive, thank God.”
Verbitsky was not so lucky. The Ukrainian government has opened an investigation into his death.