Protesters in Ukraine have called for the resignation of Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko after an attack on a journalist and activist. Tetyana Chornovil was found in a ditch after publishing a report on corruption.
Protesters demanded that Vitaly Zakharchenko step down on Thursday in response to the attack on Chornovil after her report on corruption by the country's political elite.
Protesters carried pictures of the 34-year-old as they marched on the Ukrainian Interior Ministry in the capital, Kyiv.
The prominent journalist, known for her critical reports about Yanukovych and top officials, was stopped in her car by an all-terrain vehicle in the early hours of Wednesday.
A group of unidentified men from the four-by-four then broke the rear window and began to hit her, police said, with Chornovil left in a ditch needing medical treatment..
The freelance journalist was left with a broken nose, concussion and numerous bruises, according to the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. Opposition activists said she was in hospital, being treated in intensive care.
A surveillance camera from the journalist's car, which was thought to have shown the all-terrain vehicle, was removed by the men.
"They were hitting me on the head, they were not saying anything, they were just hitting," said Chornovil in comments to the website of Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.
Only hours earlier, Chornovil - who was taking part in the DW project "Alle Macht Dem Volk" (All Power to the People) - had published a story about a lavish suburban home she claimed was being built for Zakharchenko, a close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych himself condemned the attack and ordered Zakharchenko to find those responsible. Police said their "most experienced" investigators were probing the attack.
The opposition has called for Zakharchenko to resign over police brutality and corruption, but his sacking has been ruled out by the president.
'The last drop of blood'
Jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko laid the blame for the attack at the door of the authorities.
"Today they nearly killed Tanya Chornovil and this should be the last drop of blood, the last manifestation of cruelty towards our people which we have all allowed through our inaction," Tymoshenko said.
Kyiv has provided the venue for repeated street protests since late November, when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Rallies at the weekends have drawn crowds of as many as 200,000 people, with complaints that police were guilty of excessive violence in clearing the protests.
Instead of the EU deal, Ukraine sealed a deal with Russia last week to receive a $15-billion (11-billion-euro) loan, and lower gas prices. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would prefer Ukraine to enter into a Customs Agreement with Moscow as an alternative to forming closer ties to Brussels.
rc/msh (AFP, Reuters)