Ukraine's topless group widens political role
By Richard Balmforth
KIEV (Reuters) - Brazenly provocative, the bare-breasted young women of Femen are becoming an eye-catching -- if unsolicited -- fixture on Ukraine's political scene.
Anna Hutsol, Femen's spikey-haired 26-year-old leader, says she commands a small army of 300 mainly student activists ready to peel off in public to support Ukrainian women's rights.
As the group broadens its activities to embrace wider causes, she says Femen is undeterred by increased police action. "We plan more protests this year," Hutsol told Reuters.
Femen activists caused a minor diplomatic stir last month during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a topless street protest in which they made raunchy references to his personal life.
Last week two semi-clad Femen members disrupted an Iranian exhibition with a protest in support of an Iranian woman held in jail for adultery and complicity of murder.
The Ukrainian authorities, who once laughed off Femen's activities as cheeky but harmless antics, may now be losing patience after the anti-Putin demonstration which touched a raw nerve in sensitive ties with a powerful neighbor.
"The police are becoming more aggressive now. But at least that shows we are being taken seriously," Hutsol told Reuters in an interview in a downtown Kiev cafe.
UKRAINIAN WOMEN'S PLIGHT Continued...