The U.S. State Department is expressing concern over what it calls "a pattern of targeted violence" against opposition activists in Ukraine, where thousands of protesters have been staging demonstrations against the government's efforts at closer ties with Russia.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. finds the December 25 beating of journalist Tetiana Chornovol "particularly disturbing," and called on Ukraine to ensure respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.
Chornovol, who has written articles critical of the government, spoke from her hospital bed Thursday, a day after she said a group of men dragged her from her car and beat her, leaving her with a black eye, swollen lips, and fractures to her nose and face. A dashboard video camera in her car captured footage of the attack, showing a sports utility vehicle blocking the path of her car and eventually ramming into her. Chornovol said she was then beaten by several men. Her husband said she was hospitalized with a concussion.
Anti-government demonstrators in Kyiv are now brandishing photographs of her swollen face as a symbol of government unfairness.
President Viktor Yanukovych has condemned the attack and ordered an investigation. Authorities say they have so far arrested two suspects.
On Tuesday, an opposition organizer in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Dmitri Pylypets, was beaten and stabbed by unknown assailants.
Anti-government protesters have filled the streets of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities since last month, when President Yanukovych suddenly reversed positions and refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union, opting instead for stronger ties with Russia. Since then, Moscow has promised to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian debt and cut the price of Russian gas to Ukraine to strengthen the struggling economy.
The demonstrators are calling on the government to honor its promise to sign the deal with the European Union.