Beaten protest leader Dmytro Bulatov leaves Ukraine

Dmytro Bulatov before and after his alleged torture Image copyright AP/AFP
Image caption Dmytro Bulatov went missing for eight days before re-emerging covered in blood

A Ukrainian protest leader who says he was abducted and tortured has left the country for medical treatment.

Dmytro Bulatov has travelled to Lithuania, which has promised to treat any protesters injured in the crisis.

He appeared on TV last week with a gash on his face and part of his ear cut off. He said he had been held and beaten for eight days.

His case became a new rallying point for protesters, who want President Viktor Yanukovych to resign.

Mr Bulatov arrived in Vilnius in the early hours of Monday morning and was immediately taken to hospital, the Baltic News Service reports.

Thousands are currently in Maidan square in Kiev, a focal point for the protesters.

Mr Yanukovych has offered a number of concessions and his cabinet quit their jobs.

But the demonstrators, many of whom want to see closer ties with the EU rather than Russia, have not been placated.

'Tragic situation'

Mr Bulatov was a leader of a group called Automaidan, made up mainly of drivers who would protect the protest camps and blockade streets.

He went missing on 22 January and re-emerged eight days later on the outskirts of Kiev.

He told the media he had been "crucified" by his abductors, who he could not identify other than to say they had Russian accents.

Opposition politicians Western diplomats expressed outrage at the incident.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the "deliberate targeting of organisers and participants of peaceful protests".

On Sunday, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said European diplomats had helped to arrange medical care outside Ukraine.

"Now everything is done in that regard to finalise everything and give him a possibility to leave abroad for further treatment," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ukraine's months-long protests show no sign of abating
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Vitali Klitschko addressed a crowd of thousands, and called on the president to stand down

On Friday, interior ministry investigators had turned up at the hospital, apparently with a court order for the detention of Mr Bulatov.

But protesters had already arrived and prevented the investigators from questioning him.

Officials had suggested his account of the abduction might have been fabricated.

"The only thing he has is a scratch on one of his cheeks," Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara told broadcaster al-Jazeera.

"It looks like the alleged story that he was kidnapped and tortured is not absolutely true."

The ministry later said the comments did not reflect his "real attitude to the tragic situation", and said the minister wished Mr Bulatov a speedy recovery.

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