Ukraine topless activists raise SOS from Belarus

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Dec. 20, 2011, 7:40 p.m. | Ukraine — by Reuters

Belarus plainclothes policemen detain protesters during an opposition action devoted for anniversary of the presidential election in Belarus, Minsk, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. About 30 protesters were arrested.
© AP


Ukraine's Femen group which specialises in topless protests in public raised an SOS on Tuesday over three activists who it said were seized by police in Belarus, forced to strip, threatened with violence and then abandoned naked in woodland. The Kyiv-based group said the three were seized by police in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Monday after staging a typical bare-breasted protest on the steps of the KGB state security headquarters, mocking authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"They were blindfolded and driven all night in a bus. They were taken into a wood. Oil was poured on them. They were forced to strip and were threatened with being set on fire," a statement by the group said.

"They were threatened with a knife which was later used to cut their hair," it said. They were later abandoned naked in woodlands without their identity papers, the group said, appealing for help in tracing them.

KGB offices in Minsk refused to comment.

But the Ukrainian foreign ministry later said they had information that they had been found about 300 km (190 miles) from Minsk.

A blog posted by Femen in Kyiv showed three half-naked young women openly mocking Lukashenko by wearing false moustaches. One had his face painted on her back while another held a poster calling for political prisoners to be freed.

Lukashenko tolerates little dissent in the former Soviet republic he has run since 1994 and authorities crack down swiftly on public demonstrations against his rule.

Ukrainian authorities laregly tolerate Femen activists who regularly hold bare-breasted actions in Kyiv to highlight what they see as political injustice, social abuse and the exploitation of women.

Ukrainian police usually allow them to protest before detaining them for a short while and then releasing them.

In the run-up to the Euro-2012 soccer tournament, which will be co-hosted by Ukraine and which Femen says will lead to prostitution being legalised in Ukraine, the group has become bolder in its action.

Earlier this month Femen attempted to stage a protest in Moscow before the parliamentary election there. The activists then were quickly overpowered by local security guards before they could make their protest.
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