Wednesday 25 December 2013

Activist and journalist who organised pro-EU protests in Ukraine assaulted and hospitalised in separate incidents

(As published in The Independent)

A journalist and an activist who organised mass pro-EU protests in Ukraine were assaulted and hospitalised in separate incidents on Tuesday night.

Activist Dmitry Pylypets told The Independent he  was approached by two men outside his apartment in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. They stabbed him at least four times, told him to stop organising protests, and left him bleeding on the street. Mr Pylyets believes the attack could have been much worse if his assailants had not been interrupted by a passing driver.

Journalist Tetyana Chornovil was driving home from Kiev when she noticed she was being followed by an SUV. The pursuers rammed her car, forcing her to flee on foot. She told reporters that two men leapt out of the SUV, chased her down, and beat her unconscious. Doctors say she needs surgery to reconstruct her face.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have taken to the streets over the past month to protest their government’s decision to abandon a historic Association Agreement with the EU, which would have given Ukraine free access to European markets in exchange for democracy and human rights reform.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks to have killed the deal, years in the making, by agreeing a 15 billion dollar bail-out for Ukraine's floundering economy and slashing the price of gas exports to Ukraine by a third. 

Embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych insists he still intends to sign the Agreement next year, but Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov made it clear on Monday that Moscow would block the move.

Responding to a question about whether Kiev could still sign a pact with the EU having secured multi-billion dollar financial assistance from Russia, he said:

"The financial assistance agreement gives us the right to demand that the Ukrainian government repay this loan at any time, backed by the most severe legal consequences." Russia has previously threatened to block Ukrainian imports and increase gas prices if Ukraine signed the agreement with the EU. 

The attacks are the latest in a series of actions targeting pro-Europe demonstrators. A third activist died in hospital earlier this week after being assaulted by three men he said were police officers on 18 December.

36 internationals, including former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, have been banned from Ukraine by the country’s state security services for affiliating with demonstration organisers.

International rights organisation Human Rights Watch have also accused President Yanukovych’s government of intimidating those who complained about police violence during the protests.