11:14 am - Monday May 27, 2024

Ukraine’s president out of hospital, back at work

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 Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych who was hospitalized as tensions escalated between his government and the opposition is expected to return to work on Monday.

The presidency confirmed his release from hospital on Sunday, four days after he was admitted with acute respiratory problems.

“After concluding the necessary treatment, the president feels well — his physical condition is satisfactory,” Mr. Yanukovych’s office said.

Opposition groups have for weeks been staging violent protests in the capital Kiev and other parts of the country, demanding the president’s resignation and early elections.

So far, four protesters are confirmed to have been killed and some 500 people have been reported injured. Three of the protesters died of gunshot wounds and one was found dead in the woods with signs of torture.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko on Sunday called on citizens to form local neighbourhood watch units to fend off violent gangs he said were deployed by the government to add to the chaos.

“Democratic forces should bring the protest to their local government,” he told protesters on Independence Square in Kiev.

Mr. Klitschko made the remarks on his return from the Munich Security Conference, where Western allies clashed with Russia over the Ukraine political crisis.

The appearance of badly maimed opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov on Ukraine television drew criticism as foreign ministers gathered in Germany for the annual meeting late Friday.

Mr. Bulatov had re-emerged eight days after he disappeared to say he had been abducted and tortured. His captors kept him in a dark room and partly cut off his ear, he said. Mr. Bulatov was treated at a hospital in Kiev and later left Ukraine, opposition lawmaker Petro Poroshenko said.

Mr. Poroshenko said on Facebook that Mr. Bulatov was on his way to the Baltics. Opposition sources in Kiev told DPA Bulatov would travel to Riga, Latvia, then on to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

“The government wanted to make Bulatov a hostage even though he was in hospital,” Mr. Klitschko said. “We hope he will have a rapid recovery and rehabilitation.” Both Klitschko and Poroshenko thanked international mediators for their help.

The government said it was investigating Bulatov’s case. The Internal Affairs Ministry also said the activist was being investigated for his role in anti-government protests since November.

Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and other top officials in Kiev expressed doubts that Mr. Bulatov was tortured. The Ukrainian government would not rule out the possibility that the opposition staged his kidnapping to reflect negatively on the government.

Mr. Kozhara and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, discussed Bulatov’s case in Munich. Mr. Steinmeier told reporters Mr. Kozhara had agreed to allow the activist to leave Ukraine.

Mr. Bulatov (35) had made a series of contentious speeches at the protests and led demonstrators to government buildings in recent weeks.

The protests began when Mr. Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union and instead sought closer ties to Russia.

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