Ukraine opposition set for talks with John KerryAgence France-Presse . Kiev / New Age Online
Ukraine's opposition leaders were set to meet US secretary of state John Kerry on Saturday, after the army urged embattled president Viktor Yanukovych to act urgently to end two months of turmoil.
Yanukovych on Friday scrapped controversial anti-protest laws but the reappearance of a leading protester, his face swollen and caked in blood, did little to win over the opposition or international opinion.
Yanukovych, who has been on sick leave since Thursday, repealed draconian anti-protest laws passed in January that had radicalised the two-month anti-government protest movement.
The street rallies first erupted when the president backed out of a key pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
He also signed an amnesty bill for jailed opposition activists, but it will only take effect if protesters vacate the public buildings they have occupied within 15 days.
The manoeuvres came after opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, who went missing more than a week ago, reappeared Thursday night, saying he was tortured by abductors who cut off his ear and drove nails through his hands before dumping him in a forest.
‘They crucified me, nailed me, cut my ear off, cut my face,’ Bulatov said in televised remarks.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was ‘appalled’ at the ‘obvious signs of torture’ inflicted on Bulatov.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton also said she was ‘appalled’ while Amnesty International said the ‘barbaric’ act should be immediately investigated.
Ashton said she would return next week to Ukraine, condemning what she described as instances of intimidation and torture against the opposition there.
Ukraine's interior ministry was reported by Interfax as saying Bulatov would be placed under house arrest for a week under suspicion of organising major unrest.
The protest movement's leaders claim that abuse and beatings of activists are widespread.
A recent outbreak of violence in the protests saw several people shot dead and turned parts of the capital Kiev into a battle zone.
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