Ukraine protester vows to fight on after police humiliation

Anti-government protesters stand on a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, on Jan 24, 2014. A Ukrainian protester who was assaulted, stripped and humiliated by members of elite Berkut riot police in Kiev said on Friday he w
Anti-government protesters stand on a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, on Jan 24, 2014. A Ukrainian protester who was assaulted, stripped and humiliated by members of elite Berkut riot police in Kiev said on Friday he was prepared to fight on in anti-government protests despite his ordeal. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GORSHKOV (AFP) - A Ukrainian protester who was assaulted, stripped and humiliated by members of elite Berkut riot police in Kiev said on Friday he was prepared to fight on in anti-government protests despite his ordeal.

Mr Mykhailo Gavrylyuk, 34, who was forced to completely undress in freezing temperatures, told reporters at a press conference that "victory is not far off".

A film posted on YouTube showed Berkut officers posing for pictures with their naked captive in a horrific scene recalling notorious prisoner abuse scandals like that at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Appearing in public for the fist time, Mr Gavrylyuk related how he was arrested during the clashes between police and protesters that have rocked Kiev over the last days.

"After I was grabbed, they beat me with batons, with their legs, they hit me in my head, torso," he said.

Blue and red circles could be seen around his eyes after the beating, with gore wounds on the face, ears and neck.

According to Mr Gavrylyuk, the beating was not enough for the policemen and they decided to humiliate him also morally.

"After the beating, they stripped me completely and threw me to the ground," he said.

"When I was lying naked on the ground they put their feet on my head like football players on a ball and photographed themselves." A native of Ukrainian-speaking western Ukraine, Mr Gavrylyuk suggested that the policemen, who talked to each other in Russian, beat and humiliated him for political reasons.

Ukraine has long been split between the nationalist and Ukrainian-speaking west and far more Russophile east, which is the native region of embattled president Viktor Yanukovych.

The hundreds of extra security forces who have been sent to Kiev to counter protesters, represent the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

"I am a Cossack, I took an oath that I will defend the Ukrainian people," Mr Gavrylyuk said, shaved bald, but with a little forelock left in the middle of the head in the Cossack style.

Cossacks are Ukrainian peasants from the 16th-18th centuries who refused to be subject to Polish and Russian masters and went to the undeveloped land in the south of Ukraine and created paramilitary settlements.

In modern Ukraine people who call themselves "Cossacks" are free in spirit and do not tolerate any oppression.

"Every Cossack could always answer for another one. Revenge will be very tough," he said, answering whether he would avenge the humiliation.

But the victim said he was not going to seek justice in predominantly corrupt Ukrainian courts.

"God will punish them," he added.

"After the beating, they decided to cut my Cossack forelock and cut it with a knife several times" "Then, naked, they gave me an axe and ordered to shout that 'I love Berkut', but I did not say any word," Mr Gavrylyuk added.

Still naked, he was put into a police car and taken to the police station.

There he lost consciousness after suffering beatings. He was taken to hospital and then returned to the camp on Kiev's Independence Square or Maidan.

"It is in my plans to continue preparing the revolution," said Gavrylyuk, who has already returned to work in the Maidan self-defence headquarters.

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