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Femen says three top activists beaten in Ukraine

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    Femen activists Yana Zhdanova, Oksana Shachko, Anna Hutsol and Oleksandra Shevchenko leave the district court in Kiev on July 28, 2013. The head of the Ukrainian feminist movement Femen alleged Sunday that she and two other activists of the group known for its topless protests were beaten by special forces. (AFP/File)

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    FEMEN activist and leader Anna Hutsol (L) and consultant Viktor Svyatskiy after they were beaten as they walked out of an apartment building in Odessa on August 17, 2013. The head of the Ukrainian feminist movement Femen alleged Sunday that she and two other activists of the group known for its topless protests were beaten by special forces. (FEMEN/Handout/AFP)

The head of the Ukrainian feminist movement Femen alleged Sunday that she and two other activists of the group known for its topless protests were beaten by special forces.

Anna Hutsol described the attack late Saturday as "planned by Ukrainian special services" in an attempt to scare the women into ceasing their protests.

Hutsol told AFP that she was beaten along with another leading activist, Alexandra Shevchenko, and a male consultant to the group, Viktor Svyatskiy, as they walked out of an apartment building in the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

"My face is beaten up, I have bruises to my chest and back. The blows knocked me out for a time," Hutsol said in a telephone interview, adding that the other activists suffered similar injuries.

The group published a photograph of Svyatskiy with blood running down his forehead and cheek sitting in the back of an ambulance with Hutsol after the alleged attack, the fifth targeting Femen in recent months.

The group said in a statement on its website that it had asked Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko to provide its members with bodyguards.

Femen accused the Ukrainian government of ordering the recent attacks with the aim of pressuring the activists to halt their protests.

"This is a continuation of repression against Femen activists. They are doing all they can to drive the movement out of Ukraine," Hutsol said.

Odessa regional police spokesman Vladimir Shabliyenko told AFP that police had opened a probe and were investigating a case of "minor bodily harm."

Svyatskiy was hospitalised after being severely beaten in a night-time attack last month, while Hutsol said she was twice hit in the face by strangers in the street.

Three members of the group along with a photographer were beaten by men in plain clothes and held in police custody overnight in late July as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine.

Putin was met with a bare-breasted Femen protest when he visited a trade fair in Germany in April alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Femen's female activists have become well-known in Ukraine and abroad for baring their breasts to protest discrimination against women and other rights violations.