KIEV - Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, addressing thousands of people at the cradle of the uprising against Ukraine's Moscow-backed leader, accused Russia on Sunday of being complicit in police violence against protesters.
To chants of "Russia, rise up", Khodorkovsky, who was jailed for a decade under President Vladimir Putin, told the crowd the Kremlin was lying to its own people by portraying the protesters as "neo-fascists" bent on violence.
Wearing a simple dark anorak and jeans, he addressed the crowd from a stage in Kiev's Independence Square, occupied by protesters since November despite police trying to oust them with force which resulted in about 100 deaths.
"I have been shown what the authorities did here. They did this in agreement with the Russian authorities - more than 100 dead, more than 5,000 wounded," Khodorkovsky told the crowd, who waved back with Ukrainian flags.
"I've seen the plywood planks they used to stand up to the bullets. It made me want to cry, it's so awful," he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
The 50-year-old former executive, who fell out with Putin more than a decade ago, said it was clear that the Kremlin leader's portrayal of the protesters as dangerous extremists, drummed home by Russia's state-controlled media, was false.
"Russian propaganda lies, as always. There are no fascists or Nazis here, no more than on the streets on Moscow or St Petersburg," he said. "These are wonderful people who stood up for their freedom."