SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 23 (Reuters) - The Ukrainian town councillor whose apparent torture and murder helped to prompt a new government offensive in the east was mobbed by a hostile, pro-Russian crowd before he disappeared, a video of the incident shows.
The footage from Thursday on local news site gorlovka.ua shows angry scenes outside the town hall of Horlivka, between the separatist flashpoint cities of Donetsk and Slaviansk, as councillor Volodymyr Rybak is manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse.
Rybak had tried to remove the flag of the separatist Donetsk Republic, the website said. "Over my dead body will you take down that flag," one man in plain clothes yells at Rybak as the politician tries to gain entry to the town hall.
Two uniformed policemen appear in the video, though only one appears to intervene - ineffectually. After several minutes, Rybak appears able to walk away. Ukraine's Interior Ministry said he was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage later that day. His body was found on Saturday near Slaviansk.
He and another, unidentified, man appeared to have been tortured and dumped alive in a river to drown, police concluded.
Ukraine's acting president, who like Rybak is a member of the Batkivshchyna party led by former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, cited the murder as grounds for relaunching a so far limited operation against militants who have taken over around a dozen towns and public buildings in the Russian-speaking east.
"Terrorists who have effectively taken the whole Donetsk region hostage, have crossed a line, starting to torture and murder Ukrainian patriots," Oleksander Turchinov said.
Ukrainian officials who took power after the fall of the Kremlin-backed president acknowledge that corruption and pro-Russian sympathisers in the police and SBU security service have made them ineffective in resisting what it says are activities by Russian special forces to organise separatist militants. (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Sergei Karazy in Kiev and Aleksandar Vasovic in Slaviansk; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Anna Willard)