You know how you cause a ceasefire between police and protesters to fall apart? Police Brutality.
KIEV, Ukraine — As opposition leaders negotiated with President Viktor F. Yanukovich to defuse Ukraine’s violent civil uprising, new evidence emerged of brutality by the authorities, including a video of a protester stripped naked except for boots by a group of officers from the feared Berkut riot police.
The video shows the naked man standing on snow-covered streets, being photographed by one police officer while several others looked on. Another officer is seen grabbing the man by the back of the neck, forcing him to hold an ice scraper, then slapping him on the head and kicking him as he is directed into a police bus. Welts are visible on the man’s back as he climbs into the bus.
It’s like watching a cease-fire fall apart in the Middle East. Israel finally puts the fear of God in either Hamas or Fatah or Hezbollah or whoever is shelling them this time, and the two agree to a cease-fire. Within a month on the outside, the group is back at it with kids throwing stones and stepping up the attacks. The difference here is that Israel has better weapons and training than those they are trying to fend off.
According to the New York Times, the Interior Minister has issued an apology and promised an investigation. It may well be too late though. After three deaths this past week among protesters looking to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the Common Market, the protesters are – understandably – emotional and angry. This brutality does not help the already shaking ground on which the government stands.
There were also signs of spreading unrest outside of Kiev, the capital. In Lviv, in western Ukraine, protesters occupied the regional administration building. The Lviv area is a stronghold of support for European integration, the issue that set off the civil uprising in November.
Demonstrators similarly laid siege to the regional administration in Rivne, also in the west, where they demanded that riot police officers deployed to Kiev be sent home. There were parallel actions in a number of other cities, including Cherkasy in central Ukraine, where several thousand demonstrators briefly clashed with the police who protected the administration building and at one point fired several shots in the air, the local news media reported.
The protests, while not clearly coordinated, were all in response to the increasingly ominous situation in Kiev, where demonstrators near the Dynamo soccer stadium had clashed fiercely with the police throughout this week, burning police buses, beating some officers and setting large numbers of tires on fire.
One of the things the protesters are concerned about? It seems the Berkut are behaving like the Basij.
Among the most chilling developments were reports of demonstrators being kidnapped — in some cases at hospitals — or detained by the police and taken to undisclosed locations.
Igor Lutsenko, a civic activist and leading organizer of the opposition movement who has been a strong advocate of peaceful protest, was grabbed early Tuesday morning at a hospital where he had brought another demonstrator injured by a stun grenade during clashes with the police.
Is this Ukraine or Iran?
In an interview from his hospital bed on Thursday, Mr. Lutsenko described being forced into a van by men whom he described as “very professional” and taken to a forest where he and Mr. Verbytsky were beaten and interrogated, but mostly kept apart.
Mr. Lutsenko, who was beaten severely at times on the head with wooden boards, had a tooth knocked out, and his left eye was blackened. There were bruises and cuts all over him. He said that at one point he was forced to kneel in the woods in front of a tree, a plastic bag was put over his head and he was told to pray. He said he was certain he would be killed. Instead, his captors left, and he trekked injured through snowy woods until he found a local resident who helped him.
H/T: R. S. McCain