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Two arrests reported in Chornovol beating (VIDEOS) (UPDATED)

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Dec. 25, 2013, 7:20 p.m. | Ukraine — by Kyiv Post

Journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovol lies in a hospital bed after unknown men beat her on her way home on Dec. 25.
© Mustafa Nayem

Kyiv Post

A group of men viciously attacked and beat prominent Ukrainian journalist and civic activist Tetyana Chornovol outside Kyiv about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 25. Later in the day, police say they identified three suspects and took two of them into custody over the brazen crime, the latest in a string of attacks against journalists and civic activists who have criticized the government. 

Tetyana Chornovol photographed in hospital. (c) Mustafa Nayem

Сhornovol was undergoing surgery, opposition Batkivshchyna Party member of parliament Serhiy Pasynsky said earlier in the day. "According to doctors' estimations it will need at least three operations, if all goes optimistically," he said to hromadske.tv.

According to police, Chornovol was driving home to the village of Gora when around 1:30 a.m. her car was blocked by a sport utility car with unknown men inside. Chornovol tried to turn back, but her car was pushed to the side of the road. After she stopped the car, the men dragged Chornovol out and savagely beat her. After that, the men left Chornovol in the car and pushed it into a roadside ditch.

She was taken to a hospital in Boryspil of Kyiv Oblast. 

Chornovol didn't call the police after the assault because she could barely talk. Instead, traffic police officers were alerted and called police, Mykola Zhukovich, the head of the Interior Ministry in Kyiv Oblast's press service, told the Kyiv Post. "Someone saw that her car stood on the road and called the traffic police," he said.

Tetiana Chornovol.

According to journalist and activist Mustafa Nayyem, Chornovol, 34, suffered a concussion and injuries to her face in the beating by a group of men. 

President Viktor Yanukovych's press service released a statement on Dec. 25, saying that the president condemned this act of violence and ordered Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko to do everything to solve the case of Chornovol's beating.

U.S. Embassy in Kyiv condemned the attack on Chornovol in the statement it released on Dec. 25. The embassy called for an investigation, "which unlike previous such incidents must result in those responsible being held fully accountable under the law."

On 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 24, right before the beating, Chornovol posted a blog about a house being constructed outside Kyiv that allegedly belongs to Zakharchenko.

In a short video published on YouTube, in a hospital bed, the battered Chornovol says, "They didn't say anything. They were just beating."

EuroMaidan demonstrators reacted to the beating by calling on people to picket the Interior Ministry building in Kyiv. As of 11 a.m. of Dec. 25, a column of up to 300 protesters was moving towards the Interior Ministry, where several hundred protesters had already convened, from Independence Square. As reported by a Kyiv Post journalist from the scene, the crowd had added a new chant to their repertoire: "If there is blood, there are sanctions."

The leader of Batkivshchyna opposition party Arseniy Yatseniuk said he believes that brutal beating of Chornovil is directly related to her journalism activities. "Tanya (Chornovil) has done dozens of investigations and Prosecutor's General Office should interrogate all the people named in her journalistic investigations," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Video filmed with the dashboard camera of Tetyana Chornovol and posted to YouTube shows the activist being chased by a sport utility vehicle before being dragged out of her car and attacked.

After the beating singer Ruslana Lyzhychko called on the nation’s journalists to show solidarity and investigate her beating to the fullest.

“I call on all of the nation’s journalists,” Lyzhychko wrote on her Facebook page. “You know better than anyone else who should answer for this crime…how to defend the honor and life of your colleagues. I believe that you are able to ensure that no one (else) suffers and those that are guilty will, for starters, be brought to political justice!”

She continued: “The impunity of a criminal gang that terrorizes the Ukrainian people can lead from national disobedience to national resistance. Perhaps, somebody really wants this to happen. Respectful journalists, you are the people, and you are the fourth estate. Right now peace in our nation depends on you, on your fidelity to principle and your solidarity.”

Chornovol is famous for a number of daring actions. 

On Sept. 13, 2012, an unknown man doused Chornovol with green dye. 

A month later, she spotted unknown men spreading fake political leaflets and was beaten trying to find out who they were.

On Aug. 24, 2012, she entered the compound of Yanukovych's Mezhihirya mansion, taking photos of the place until she was noticed by security.

Her activism goes back many years. 

In 2001, she chained herself to rails to protest then President Leonid Kuchma during "Ukraine Without Kuchma" demonstrations, a series of protests sparked by the Sept. 16, 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in which Kuchma is implicated, but has denied involvement and has never faced trial. Chornovol also unsuccessfully ran for parliament in October 2012 as an independent candidate.

A mother of one child, Chornovol is an active participant of EuroMaidan pro-European protests now in their second month. She has spoken from the stage on Independence Square, the nerve center of the demonstrations, multiple times and is a member of the EuroMaidan council.

Numerous attacks have taken place recently against journalists and civic attacks, violence that political opposition leaders say is evidence of a coordinated attack on critics by pro-government forces. Opposition leaders have continued their calls for the resignation of Zakharchenko, the nation's top cop, and Pshonka, the nation's top prosecutor.

Other recent attacks this month include:

Just after 9 p.m. on Dec. 24, two unknown male assailants assailed Kharkiv EuroMaidan co-organizer Dmitry Pylypets, stabbing him four times, while he was walking on Ivanova Street near the apartment where he currently resides;

* Two members of Road Control, a civic group that exposes corruption among the nation's road police, have been attacked this month. On Dec. 21, Volodymyr Maralov, a member of Road Control, was shot and wounded after being attacked by two assailants. His car was also set ablaze. Then on Dec. 16, two men severely beat Svitlana Malytska – another journalist affiliated with the group – inside an elevator of the residential building where she lives.

* More than 40 journalists were attacked by police and others on Dec. 1-2 while covering EuroMaidan demonstrations. (See also this story)

* And, on Nov. 30, riot police beat several dozen EuroMaidan demonstrators on Independence Square, acts of unprovoked violence that sparked national and international outrage. In the aftermath, the size of the anti-government crowds at the ongoing rallies has grown considerably, peaking usually on the weekly Sunday rallies.

Kyiv Post editors Mark Rachkevych and Christopher J. Miller contributed to this article.

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