Feminists Ask for Protection After Attacks in Ukraine

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 04:21 PM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Leaders of Femen, a Ukrainian women’s-rights group known for staging bare-breasted political protests, demanded government protection Sunday after two of their leaders and a male associate were assaulted while on vacation in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Femen leaders Anna Hutsol and Alexandra Shevchenko and Viktor Svatsky, a colleague, were beaten by unknown assailants on Saturday night outside an apartment building in Odessa where they were vacationing.

It was the fifth time in recent weeks that members of Femen were assaulted. The group says the attacks are part of a campaign to drive it out of the country,” the New York Times reported.

Svatsky was savagely beaten near Femen’s office in Kiev last month and spent two weeks in the hospital.

Hutsol was attacked outside her apartment. That same day, Shevchenko, two other Femen members and a photojournalist were beaten and detained overnight by the Ukrainian authorities.

Those attacks coincided with a visit to Kiev by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, for festivities related to the anniversary of the church’s founding.

Femen called on Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaly Zakharchenko to provide around-the-clock security, saying that without it, its activists will be “in mortal danger.”

Members of the group, which says it opposes patriarchy in all forms, have staged topless demonstrations on an array of issues. These have included protests against prostitution, sex trafficking, organized religion, income inequality, domestic violence and authoritarianism.

Photographs posted on the group’s Web site on Sunday showed Hutsol with a swollen, red nose, a bloody eye and cuts above her lip, and Svatsky with welts on the side of his head, blackened eyes and a swollen lower lip.

An Odessa regional police spokesman, Vladimir Shalivenko, told Agence France-Presse that the case was being investigated as an assault involving “minor bodily harm.”

Shevchenko said Svatsky and Hutsol had been treated at a hospital and were recovering, but that at the time of the attack on Saturday had not yet healed from previous assaults in Kiev.

Shevchenko said the group had believed that the attacks were instigated by the Russian government to prevent a repeat of a situation early this year in Hanover, Germany, in which she ran topless toward Putin, who was visiting a trade show with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Shevchenko, who had a profane slogan written on her chest accusing Mr. Putin of being a dictator, came within a few feet of the Russian leader before security officers wrestled her to the ground.

Now, Shevchenko says, her group is “thinking about” leaving Ukraine.



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