Kiev Probes Police Attack

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's top human rights official said Monday that she has opened an investigation into a possible police attack on three opposition lawmakers.

"The use of force against lawmakers is a clear sign of a police state," Nina Karpachova said in a statement.

Ukraine's opposition Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), claimed that its lawmakers had suffered injuries in the western city of Uzhgorod while attempting to prevent police from transferring a former regional official from hospital back to jail.

Ukrainian investigators detained Ivan Rizak, a former governor of the western Zakarpatye region, earlier this month and charged him with abuse of power and bribery. Rizak, who suffers from a heart condition, was later transferred to a hospital for treatment, but last Friday doctors reported he was fit enough to return to jail.

Interior Ministry spokesman Volodymyr Mulko said Monday that it was "too early to draw any conclusions."

Rizak is a staunch backer of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who lost last year's bitterly contested presidential vote to then-opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Authorities loyal to Yushchenko recently arrested several former officials on charges ranging from abuse of power to conspiring to commit murder.

Yanukovych and other opposition politicians have accused Yushchenko's government of persecuting its political opponents, but the new authorities say they are just fighting corruption that flourished under the former Kuchma regime.

Ukraine's new pro-Western leadership came to power after mass protests over election fraud last year. It has promised to improve human rights after the decade-long rule of former President Leonid Kuchma, who was accused of violating civil freedoms.

Source: St. Petersburg Times