By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian tensions remained high following President Yanukovich’s attempted relief to the opposition. However, world leaders offered help.
Unseen since taking sick leave, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich repealed anti-protest legislation, and signed an amnesty into law for activists detained during massive protests. Amidst news reports of a prominent opposition activist’s kidnapping and torture claims, many rejected Yanukovich’s decision because he conditioned it on activists leaving occupied buildings.
“There’s no point in signing this amnesty law,” said an improvised clinic worker at Kyiv’s occupied city hall. “No one will leave here until this government is gone.”
Concerned for demonstrators’ health in Arctic temperatures, opposition leaders urged protesters not to take to the streets for their weekly rallies. However, media outlets continued to replay video of activist Dmytro Bulatov’s story of kidnap and torture, which has kept anti-government tensions high.
Bulatov disappeared on 22 January 2014, at the hands of unknown kidnappers. Since Bulatov’s return, an interior ministry official has accused him of faking his claims to stir unrest.
“There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten. My face has been cut. They promised to poke my eye out. They cut off my ear,” Bulatov said. “They crucified me by nailing me to a door with something and beat me strongly all the while.”
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said, “The military and the Ukrainian armed forces … called on the supreme commander to take immediate steps, within the framework of the law, to stabilize the situation in the country and reach agreement with society.”
While Yanukovich has expressed concerns that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war, the military refused to take sides. A Defense Ministry news website quoted retired Admiral Serhiy Rybak, as he recalled Ukrainian peacekeeping missions abroad: “No political ambition is worth a drop of human blood.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted that the “military must remain neutral” even if it were to become involved in the crisis.
Moscow highlighted its economic over Ukraine by refusing its planned purchase of $2 billion of Ukrainian government bonds. The move contributed to the currency falling to its lowest point against the dollar in over four years.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet opposition leaders, on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.
“Our message to Ukraine’s opposition will be the full support of President Obama and of the American people for their efforts,” Kerry said in Berlin before the meetings. “But we will also say to them that if you get that reform agenda… we would urge them to engage in that because further standoff, or further violence that becomes uncontrollable, is not in anybody’s interests.”
Kerry also said, “We would … say to our friends in Russia this does not have to be a zero (sum) game, this is not something where Ukraine should become a proxy and trapped in some kind of larger ambition for Russia or the United States.”
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Tension Grips Ukraine over Torture Claims – February 1, 2014
BBC News – Stand-Off over ‘Tortured’ Ukrainian Activist Dmytro Bulatov – January 31, 2014
Reuters – Ukraine President Signs Amnesty but Anger Remains, Currency Slumps – January 31, 2014
RT – Russia’s Emergency Loan to Ukraine on Hold until Govt Forms – January 30, 2014
Times Of India – Ukrainian President Takes Sick Leave, No Crisis Solution in Sight – January 30, 2014