Ten years ago, on the night of November 29-30, the student Maidan, a protest against the government's decision to halt preparations for the EU Association Agreement, was violently dispersed in central Kyiv. The Berkut special forces severely beat dozens of people. This was a turning point that sparked the Revolution of Dignity, which was accompanied by bloodshed and violence by law enforcement. It culminated in the shooting of 48 protesters on February 20, 2014.
After then-President Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage fled to Russia, Ukraine created a special unit to investigate the "Maidan cases" - crimes against participants in the Revolution of Dignity.
How many cases have been sent to court? Are any of the ordinary perpetrators and former top officials in prison? Is there a "trace" of Russia in the crimes? How and when did Yanukovych give the order to shoot at protesters? Is there any progress in the investigation of the first murders? Serhiy Nigoyan, Mikhail Zhiznevsky and Roman Senik? How long will it take to complete the investigation of all the crimes?
This is what Ukrinform asked prosecutors Ivan Babenko and Denys Ivanov, who are deputy heads of the Department for 'Maidan cases' of the Prosecutor General's Office.
WE ARE STUDYING YANUKOVYCH'S TRIPS TO RUSSIA AND HIS MEETINGS WITH PUTIN
- November 30 will mark ten years since the violent dispersal of the student Maidan. Can we assume that the investigation of this episode is complete and that the investigation has identified all those involved in the use of force against the protesters?
I.B.: - The investigation into the events of November 30, 2013 is mostly complete. However, the investigation of former high-ranking officials who organized the crimes to the detriment of Ukraine's sovereignty and state integrity is still ongoing. This is closely related to the "Russian trace" in the Maidan events.
We are investigating whose influence led to the decision to abandon the course of European integration on November 21, which was unexpected for Ukrainian society.
We examine the well-known trips of former President Yanukovych to Russia and his meetings with Putin, as well as the receipt of a multi-billion dollar Russian loan. We see that in early 2013, many key positions in Ukraine were held by former citizens of the Russian Federation, agents of its influence. This can be said about the former head of the Security Service, Yakymenko, and the former Defense Minister, Lebedev. Even the commander of the Lviv Berkut battalion and his chief of staff had Russian citizenship. In other words, through its agents of influence, the Russian Federation wanted to create a socio-political crisis in Ukraine, under the guise of which it would incite hostility between Ukrainians, to show the whole world that Ukrainians are not worthy of statehood, that they are at war with each other. And meanwhile, to satisfy its geopolitical appetites, annex certain territories and turn Ukraine away from the European community.
Behind the high-ranking officials of the Ukrainian state were the so-called advisors and agents of influence of the Russian Federation.
Later, this "Russian trace" was noticeable in December 2013 and February 2014, when FSB officers came to provide so-called assistance. By the way, last month, 20 of these FSB officers were notified of suspicion by us. Among them are six generals, including the former head of the Russian Presidential Security Service, Viktor Zolotov.
As for the actual dispersal of the student Maidan on November 30, we brought 47 people to criminal responsibility, including 6 high-ranking officials, 2 heads of law enforcement agencies and 39 direct perpetrators - members of the Berkut special forces at the Kyiv MIA Department. The courts delivered 5 guilty verdicts against 7 law enforcement officers, and two were released from criminal liability.
In total, we submitted 27 indictments against 39 defendants to the courts. The cases of former Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Sivkovych and former head of the Kyiv City State Administration Popov are being heard in courts. Pre-trial investigations are ongoing in the cases of other high-ranking officials, including NSDC Secretary Kliuyev, former head of the Kyiv police Koryak, his deputy Fedchuk, and former commander of the Kyiv special forces Berkut Kusyuk. They are wanted, so the investigation will be conducted in absentia.
- According to the case, the decision to disperse the student Maidan by force was made by Yanukovych. From him, the instruction went down the chain of command to the leadership of the Berkut special police unit and, in fact, to ordinary Berkut officers. That is, according to the investigation, the crime was committed by a group of people by prior conspiracy. At the same time, not so long ago, on November 14, Shevchenkivskyi District Court sentenced the commander of the 2nd platoon of the 4th company of the Kyiv Berkut, Oleh Boyko, to 5 years of probation. At the same time, the court qualified his actions as having been committed by a group of people without prior conspiracy. In other words, the court concluded that the Berkut officers acted independently, and there was no conspiracy in the vertical of power. Does this affect the convictions of other defendants in the cases of dispersal of the student Maidan?
I.B.: - Let me explain the situation. Boyko was accused of having entered into a preliminary conspiracy in pursuance of an illegal order from his superiors and, together with other members of the Berkut unit, committed violent acts against citizens in order to prevent protests. After that, some of the protesters were detained and taken to the Shevchenkivskyi District Police Department, where reports were drawn up against them for allegedly committing hooliganism, for which administrative proceedings were then initiated.
That is, the investigation, based on the evidence collected, believes that the Berkut unit acted in a coordinated manner, jointly, on the same command, in accordance with the hierarchy and instructions given by the commanders and police leadership.
However, the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv, in its verdicts not only against Boyko, but also in the case of other Berkut officers, Viktor Eismont and Volodymyr Mohonia, concluded that Berkut officers had used violence against citizens, but allegedly the court hearing did not confirm the prosecution's version that they acted as a group of people by prior conspiracy.
We appealed the verdict against Eismont and Mokhonia to the Kyiv Court of Appeal, but the court upheld it. Subsequently, in fact, other judges in similar cases of Berkut officers dispersing the student Maidan have already started to act according to the so-called template, or existing practice.
We appealed the verdict against Eismont and Mokhonia in the Supreme Court. We are preparing an appeal against the latest verdict against Boyko.
- If the court in the cases of former Berkut officers, as you say, is already following the pattern of not confirming a previous conspiracy to suppress the student Maidan, won't this affect the verdicts against former high-ranking officials? Yanukovych, Kliuyev, Sivkovych and Popov? Doesn't this undermine the investigation's version of Yanukovych's order to disperse the Maidan, which went down from him to the Berkut officers?
I.B.: - There are legal nuances here. The courts take into account the fact that they are considering proceedings against specific individuals who are in the dock and do not give a legal assessment to those who are not accused in the case. In the courts where the indictments against Popov and the former Berkut commanders are being considered, we are defending the position that there was a criminal order and a preliminary conspiracy, which is proved. These are the testimonies of victims, witnesses, documents, video recordings of events recorded in the central part of Kyiv. All of them testify to the correctness of the investigation's version. We have not yet gone through all the stages: there is an appeal and cassation. Let's hope that we will defend our position.
- By the way, former Berkut officers Eismont and Mokhonia were the first to be sentenced to real punishment in 2021 - three years in prison for dispersing the student Maidan. Are they serving their sentences?
I.B.: - I have to say frankly that they do not. After a two-year appeal process, the verdict against Berkut officers Eismont and Mohonia came into force in June of this year, but they are not serving their sentences.
When the appellate court announced its decision, the prosecutor drew the court's attention to the need for its immediate execution, i.e., the taking of the accused into custody, to which the panel of judges did not respond in any way, but referred to the fact that this was the competence of the court of first instance. The prosecutor immediately sent relevant letters to the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv, which had passed the verdict, and to the Kyiv Court of Appeal, but we have not received any responses from the court. According to available information, the case was sent to the Supreme Court to consider cassation appeals. Nothing is known about the courts enforcing the verdict, and the prosecutor has no legal authority to do so on his own.
- The case against the former head of the Kyiv City State Administration Oleksandr Popov for dispersing protesters on November 30 has been heard in the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv since 2015 and, after six years of consideration, was reopened in 2021 because the presiding judge, Judge Hardina, went on maternity leave. Will it happen that the statute of limitations in this case will expire before the verdict is actually announced?
I.B.: - The problem is that, according to the Criminal Code, the statute of limitations in cases of serious crimes is 10 years. Now the statute of limitations is actually expiring in a number of criminal proceedings, including those related to the events of violence and the dispersal of the student Maidan. To be more precise, after November 30, the statute of limitations will expire in all 20 criminal proceedings pending in the courts of first instance, the subject of which are the events of November 30, 2013. As a result, 31 defendants in these cases may be released from criminal liability, even though crimes against the student Maidan have been proven.
This applies to cases of abuse of power and official authority accompanied by violence, obstruction of peaceful protests and committing forgery when making detention reports containing false information.
Next year, the statute of limitations will expire in cases related to the events of January and February 2014 in terms of serious crimes.
The only exception is proceedings where the accused evade pre-trial investigation. In these cases, the statute of limitations is suspended. However, cases involving murder, where the punishment is life imprisonment, as well as crimes against the state, do not have a statute of limitations. In total, the statute of limitations is expiring in about 60 "Maidan cases". We must honestly state that due to the lengthy court proceedings and various abuses of lawyers, the defendants, although they have been prosecuted, will avoid punishment.
In the context of the expiration of the statute of limitations in the "Maidan cases", there are two possible outcomes. The first is when the person against whom the case is being heard has the right to file an application with the court and request to be released from criminal liability if the 10-year period has expired. The court then issues a ruling releasing the person from criminal liability. The second option is when a person considers himself or herself innocent of a crime, wants to rehabilitate and demands that the case be completed in court. In this case, the court, after further consideration of the case, passes a verdict finding the person guilty or, conversely, finding the person not guilty of the crime. The court exempts the guilty from punishment due to the statute of limitations.
As for Popov's case, it is still being considered. It is not yet known whether his lawyers will request that the case be dismissed due to the statute of limitations. But starting November 30, they will have this right.
- And what about Sivkovych and Kliuyev?
I.B.: - No, they do not have such a right. The statute of limitations in their cases is suspended because they are hiding from the investigation and court. The indictments against them are considered under a special procedure of 'proceedings in absentia'. Pre-trial restraints have been imposed on them in the form of detention, and they have been put on the wanted list.
The case against the head of the so-called black company of the Berkut special forces, Dmytro Sadovnyk, is being considered under the same procedure. However, there are proceedings against other commanders of Berkut units: Dydyuk, Tyagnyryadnyi, Shevchenko, Antonov and Tsykalyuk, which also falls into the category of cases that may be closed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Some of the legislative problems related to the expiration of the statute of limitations were supposed to be resolved by the draft law No. 6454-d, which provides for amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code. The Parliament passed it in the first reading in early 2022, but since then no work has been done on it.
But we must admit that it will not save the situation in cases where the statute of limitations has expired. This draft law is more aimed at optimizing court proceedings, making it impossible for the defense to abuse the law, and allowing a court hearing to be held in the absence of lawyers, provided that at least one defendant's lawyer appears at the hearing.
However, the problem of the length of the trial and the lack of verdicts in the "Maidan cases" is not a legislative one.
Even the current norms of criminal procedure law allowed courts to consider cases before the deadline. The prosecutor is responsible for meeting the deadlines for pre-trial investigation, and the timing of the trial is a matter for the court and even the particular judge presiding over the case.
On my part, this is not a shift of responsibility to others, but a provision of the law, specifically Article 28 of our CPC [The Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine].
In the "Maidan cases" there are so-called exemplary cases that are organized at a high level. This includes the case of five Berkut officers, which was heard by the Sviatoshyno District Court under the chairmanship of Judge Dyachuk. In this process, the principles of continuity and reasonableness of time were ensured, the court examined hundreds of documents and protocols submitted by the prosecutor and the defense, heard testimony from almost a hundred victims and witnesses, and delivered a verdict.
But there are also cases with 1-2 defendants, the same number of victims, 7-10 witnesses, 5 volumes of criminal proceedings, and they are heard in court for 5-6 years because the hearing is scheduled every two months. The defense simply takes advantage of certain loopholes in the law and delays the trial.
SVYATOSHYNO DISTRICT COURT DID NOT SATISFY THE REQUIREMENTS OF SOME OF THE VICTIMS' CIVIL CLAIMS
- How did the team of prosecutors, investigators and victims of the Maidan cases react to the verdict of the Sviatoshynskyi District Court in Kyiv? Many people were disappointed that in fact none of the accused Berkut officers went to prison for the shootings on February 20...
I.B.: - Of course, the prosecutors and investigators expected the court to take into account all the evidence and testimony that we had submitted. But the court made its decision, and we can only appeal it. On November 16, the prosecutor personally delivered the appeal to the Kyiv Court of Appeal. It is not yet known when the hearing will begin.
What's the positive news? The good news is that, after 8 years of consideration of the high-profile case of mass shootings on Maidan, the court passed a verdict that rejected the manipulations about Georgian snipers who allegedly shot themselves. The court clearly established that the mass shootings on February 20, 2014, took place in the central part of Kyiv and were carried out by members of the Berkut special police unit with specific names, including the defendants.
However, the court changed the qualification and disagreed with the prosecutor that a terrorist act had taken place.
We insist that there was a terrorist act, and the intentional killings were intended to intimidate the protesters.
Without going into the details and legal intricacies, the prosecutor's position was that when not just civilians, but a group of special police units, subordinated to the relevant hierarchy and acting in a coordinated manner, act at a certain place of crime, objective circumstances testify to their prior conspiracy. And in order to qualify premeditated murder, it is not necessary that each of them pull the trigger. These can be mutual actions that complement each other and are aimed at achieving a single result. This is what we argued in court. The court fully acquitted one defendant. We categorically disagree with this, as we believe that all five Berkut officers are guilty of the alleged murders and terrorist act.
In addition, the court rejected Article 340 of the Criminal Code on illegal obstruction of protests. The prosecutor insisted and proved that the police officers had been obstructing the protests by executing an illegal order.
According to the information I have, the relatives of the victims are also dissatisfied with the court's verdict. The court also did not satisfy the requirements of some of the victims' civil claims.
- How long can the appeal proceedings last?
I.B.: - The Criminal Procedure Code does not specify any specific timeframes for consideration of a case either in the first instance or in the appellate court. The terms of consideration depend on the volume of the case and the number of participants in the proceedings. This is not a simple case. If it was considered in the court of first instance for about 8 years, then let's hope that it will be considered on appeal for much less time.
- That is, if the Court of Appeal satisfies your demands, then former Berkut officers Marinchenko and Tamtura can still go to prison?
I.B.: - Hypothetically, yes, if they don't escape by then.
BETWEEN FEBRUARY 18 AND 20, YANUKOVYCH TALKED TO PUTIN 11 TIMES, AND ZAKHARCHENKO HAD 12 CONNECTIONS WITH KOLOKOLTSEV
- In early October, the State Bureau of Investigation completed the investigation of the largest "Maidan case". Yanukovych and the entire power bloc of the time will be brought to trial for the shooting of the Heavenly Hundred. According to the investigation, what was the role of former President Yanukovych in the shootings of the Revolution of Dignity participants? Did he give any kind of a pass to do so?
D.I.: - The president's powers do not include giving a waiver, a written order to kill in the literal sense of the word. But the president has a vertical of law enforcement agencies - the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Ministry of Internal Affairs - which, within the limits of their powers, have the right to use their forces and means during events taking place in the country. If we are talking specifically about February 18-20, 2014, then at that time all law enforcement agencies were accountable and controlled directly by President Yanukovych. After the constitution was changed and executive power was concentrated in the president's hands, the then head of the SBU, Yakymenko, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Zakharchenko, were appointed directly by Yanukovych. The situation is the same with Defense Minister Lebedev. Accordingly, we conclude that the heads of these security agencies were close to the president.
The investigation found that numerous operational meetings were held at the Presidential Administration on Bankova Street on February 18, including with the participation of the head of the SBU, Yakymenko, and Interior Minister Zakharchenko. Later, the relevant meetings were held at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SBU, where the tasks set by Yanukovych were announced to their subordinates. The circle of participants is quite wide, not all of them fled Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity and not all of them refused to testify against the former president. Therefore, we have enough evidence.
Between February 18 and February 20, when active security measures were being taken to push protesters out of central Kyiv, there were numerous telephone connections between the government and the President and the heads of law enforcement agencies. We have recorded at least 10 connections between Yanukovych and Yakymenko and Zakharchenko. With each of them. There were five calls with Defense Minister Lebedev and Internal Troops Commander Shulyak on those days.
The investigation did not establish what they talked about. But with the help of numerous video recordings that were made in the central part of Kyiv at the time, the connection is traced: after Yanukovych's call to Zakharchenko, the police begin an active assault on a specific area and use excessive physical violence, special means, grenades, rubber batons, and pump-action rifles. And before all of this starts, five to ten minutes before, a connection is made. What are they talking about? Probably about this particular operation.
We can see how the number of telephone connections between Zakharchenko's subordinate security forces increased during the peak of the confrontation. Between February 18 and February 20, 139 calls were made between the then head of the Kyiv police, Mazan, and his deputy, Fedchuk. There were 47 communications between the commander of the internal troops, Shulyak, and the head of the Kyiv police, 16 communications between Shulyak and Deputy Interior Minister Ratushniak, and 5 communications between Fedchuk and Ratushniak.
There were active connections between Zakharchenko's subordinates and Yakymenko. There were 10 connections between the head of the SBU Kyiv headquarters, Shchegolev, and the head of the Kyiv police, Mazan. There were 5 connections between the head of the SBU Anti-Terrorist Center Totsky and Shchegolev, and 4 connections between Yakymenko and Zakharchenko at that time.
There is more than enough evidence of indications of an anti-terrorist operation on February 18. There was more than one meeting at the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv, where the ATO headquarters was located. It was attended by representatives of all law enforcement agencies. The deputy head of the Security Service, Totsky, was there, and he called the head of the SBU, Yakymenko, to coordinate actions. There was the head of the SBU in Kyiv and the region, Shchegolev, who was actually conducting the ATO. At these meetings, it was directly stated that all this was agreed with the president. It was Yanukovych who approved the ATO.
It is wrong to say that Yanukovych gave a written order that was binding on the security forces. However, we believe that all the events of February 18-20 took place with Yanukovych's knowledge, and the heads of law enforcement agencies acted with his consent. This was established by the investigation, and there is evidence of this, which the court will evaluate.
- The case file states that on February 18, "officials organized an assault on Maidan under the guise of an 'anti-terrorist operation' and ordered the shooting of protesters on the morning of February 20". Please tell us the details known to the investigation about how this all went down from the top of the country's leadership at the time to the "black" company of the Berkut special forces.
D.I.: - As you know, the executions on the morning of February 20 were broadcast live. The question is, why didn't Yanukovych stop it? Why did he not order Zakharchenko to withdraw the Kyiv Berkut unit from Instytutska Street? Such actions indicate Yanukovych's direct intent to have the police officers commit these crimes.
During the investigation, we found out that on February 20, 2014, Yanukovych, staying at his Mezhyhirya residence, had contact with Zakharchenko through the government's communications service between 6:52 a.m. and 7 a.m. The investigation has reason to believe that it was during this conversation, which lasted approximately 8 minutes, that Yanukovych instructed Zakharchenko to use firearms by his subordinate units in the direction of protesters in the central part of Kyiv.
After that, Zakharchenko had two telephone conversations with Russian Interior Minister Kolokoltsev via government communications. And then, as you know, starting from 9:16 a.m. to 5 p.m., members of the Berkut special forces and internal troops used service firearms - Kalashnikovs, Fort pistols, Dragunov sniper rifles and Fort-500 rifles, equipped with live ammunition - fired shots in the direction of unarmed participants of mass protests who were at that time in the area of Independence Square and the lower part of Instytutska Street. The details of this tragedy were investigated in detail in the Sviatoshynskyi District Court of Kyiv, during the trial of five Berkut officers. They were accused of killing 48 protesters.
- According to the investigation, what was the influence of Russia on the Maidan events?
D.I.: - The investigation has established numerous communications between the presidents and heads of the security forces of both countries. Immediately during the peak of the shootings on February 20, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., eight telephone connections between Putin and Yanukovych were recorded. Zakharchenko spoke to Kolokoltsev 6 times during this period.
As for the period of February 18-20, Yanukovych spoke to Putin 11 times. During these days, Zakharchenko had 12 connections with Russian Interior Minister Kolokoltsev, and SBU Head Yakymenko spoke to FSB Director Bortnikov three times.
- Is the topic of conversation known?
D.I.: - No, the investigation did not establish the content of the conversations. Special government communications are protected from all forms of listening and recording. But there is a log where all connections are recorded: who calls whom. In our history, we know of only one case when the president was recorded. It was done by Major Melnychenko in Kuchma's office. It is a pity that no one recorded Yanukovych. At least we don't know about it. Maybe there would have been something interesting (smiles).
- Where are Yanukovych and his entourage now? Is the investigation following them?
I.B.: As far as we know, after his escape in February 2014, Yanukovych settled in Russia. He received temporary asylum there and lives in the Rublevka neighborhood in the village of Barvikha in an elite house that he bought for about $50 million.
Zakharchenko and his former subordinates Fedchuk and Kusyuk are also in Russia. The latter two even serve in the security forces. Azarov and Pshonka are also in Russia.
Yakymenko and Lebedev, according to the latest data, are in Crimea. So is the commander of the "black" Berkut company, Dmytro Sadovnyk. By the way, the Podil District Court of Kyiv is already considering his indictment in absentia. The stage of examination of the prosecution's evidence has passed, so I hope the verdict is not far off.
- Is it possible to reach them through Interpol or on the basis of bilateral international agreements?
I.B.: - At the request of the investigation to issue red cards for Yanukovych and his entourage, Interpol sent letters in 2019-2020 informing them that they could not be found. They refer to the decision of the File Control Commission, which was made at the 99th session back in 2017, that the criminal proceedings against Yanukovych are related to political motives.
- According to your information, does Yanukovych stay in Russia all the time or has he traveled somewhere else?
I.B.: - There are no recorded cases of Yanukovych or any of the wanted persons - his entourage - traveling even to third world countries, African countries, or countries that do not cooperate with international search institutions. I don't think any of them would risk going anywhere except Belarus.
INVESTIGATORS SOLVE 11 ATTEMPTED MURDERS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WITH HUNTING WEAPONS
- What is the progress of the investigation into the murder of Berkut officer Mykola Smysiuk and the wounding of his colleague Roman Panchenko, which occurred at 5:30 am on February 20? Judge Serhiy Dyachuk of the Sviatoshynskyi District Court said in an interview that, in the opinion of the jury, the use of weapons against law enforcement officers "turned over a new leaf," meaning that the killing of Smysiuk could have provoked other Berkut officers to shoot protesters. Was it possible to establish who could have made these shots?
I.B.: - The pre-trial investigation into the murders of law enforcement officers on February 20 is still ongoing, there are certain advances, but solving the crime requires silence, so, unfortunately, I cannot say anything in more detail.
But this year, investigators have solved 11 attempted murders of law enforcement officers with hunting weapons. Accordingly, we have served a notice of suspicion. The person involved in this case is on the wanted list.
I consider Judge Dyachuk's statements to be his personal value judgment. Our evidence suggests that the purpose of the mass shootings of protesters on February 20 by Berkut officers was not revenge for the killings of law enforcement officers, but rather to carry out an order to prevent protests and intimidate Maidan participants.
- The murders of law enforcement officers, which occurred on the morning of February 18, 2014, were charged to Maidan activist Ivan Bubenchyk. In 2016, he confessed to this himself. According to the investigation, Bubenchyk fired from a Saiga carbine brought to the Maidan by Kharkiv resident Dmytro Lipovyi. What is the status of this case now?
I.B.: The indictments against them were submitted to the court last year. Bubenchyk's case is being considered by the Shevchenkivskyi District Court, and Lipovyi's case is being considered by the Obolonskyi District Court.
- In their presence or in absentia?
I.B.: - In their presence. Lipovoy was found in Spain, extradited and brought to Ukraine. While the hearings in his case are taking place, he is in a pre-trial detention center.
Bubenchik is not in custody, he regularly attends court hearings. He was charged with Article 115 of the Criminal Code - murder, as well as Article 348 of the Criminal Code - attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Recently, at Bubenchik's request, the court ruled that the Law "On Preventing Criminal Prosecution of Protesters of 2014" should be applied to him, and he was released from liability under Article 348 of the Criminal Code, as it falls under this law. However, as for the murders of the two law enforcement officers, the case is still under consideration.
- So, if proven guilty, he faces life imprisonment?
I.B.: Yes, the sanction of the article provides for life imprisonment.
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ARE DELAYING THE REFERRAL OF CASES TO COURT IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY
- Let's talk about the prospects for solving the first murders of Maidan activists Serhiy Nigoyan, Roman Senyk and Mykhailo Zhyznevskiy. Has the investigation managed to resolve the discrepancies between the forensic examinations in the Nigoyan case?
D.I.: - The first examination of Nigoyan showed that he was shot at a short distance. The video recordings of the events that are in the case, the interrogated witnesses indicate that the shots were made by people in civilian clothes.
I believe that in this way, at the first stage of the investigation, which began under the then head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Zakharchenko, they may have tried to absolve the police officers from responsibility, since they were at a certain distance from Nigoyan.
At the same time, during the Maidan events, some police officers did not wear uniforms at all, in particular, officers of the Public Security Department of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv did not serve in uniform during the Euromaidan events, but wore civilian clothes. This was an instruction from the Deputy Head of the Main Directorate, the Head of the Public Security Police, Petro Mykolayovych Fedchuk, who is now hiding in the Russian Federation.
After the change of government, a second examination was conducted. It has already shown that the shots were fired from such a distance that the murder could have been committed by law enforcement officers. Now we have these two examinations. And there are doubts. Therefore, a comprehensive examination was ordered, which has already been completed.
- And what does it indicate?
D.I.: - A comprehensive examination suggests the same thing as the second one: the shots could have been made from a distance. Let me remind you how the first examination was conducted. Traces of metallization and gunpowder combustion were taken from the clothes. When they took them for the first time, there were more of them. It is logical that after the first sampling, there were fewer such traces on the clothes. And now, for the third time, the expert questioned the second examination, although the third examination was intended to find out whether the shot was fired at close range or from the distance where the law enforcement officers were.
Now, taking into account other forensic techniques, another examination has been ordered, which will no longer be based solely on the data of metal residue and gunpowder combustion. After it, we hope to determine whether the shots were fired by people who were close to Nigoyan or by a law enforcement unit that was at a certain distance.
- What is the situation with the investigation into the murders of Senyk and Zhyznevsky?
D.I.: - As for Senyk and Zhyznevsky, we have the final results of the examinations, but a comprehensive examination based on the initial research is still underway. Also, with regard to Nigoyan, Senyk and Zhyznevsky, the circle of persons who are being checked for involvement in the crime has been established. I do not rule out that they may be served with suspicions in the near future.
- Earlier, the former head of the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General's Office, Serhiy Horbatiuk, said that there were about 60 law enforcement officers who, according to the investigation, were involved in crimes during the Revolution of Dignity. What is the situation with this now?
I.B.: - Law enforcement officers who are suspected or already accused of committing crimes against Maidan participants continue to work. This is facilitated by the position of the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police, which is that there are no grounds to dismiss them until the court verdict. At the same time, there were numerous cases when court hearings were disrupted due to the alleged business trips of the accused or their employment, which does not contribute to the consideration of cases within a reasonable time.
However, there are court verdicts against 23 law enforcement officers. One of them is an investigator, the rest are members of public security units, the so-called Berkut officers. Another 16 law enforcement officers were released from criminal liability on non-rehabilitating grounds. Mostly due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Two were acquitted by the courts.
D.I.: - I can add that law enforcement officers delay sending cases to court in every possible way. To do this, they spend years familiarizing themselves with the case file, so we have to go to court to limit the time for familiarization. When the case is already in court, they may fail to appear at the hearing 2-3 times, and because of the workload, the courts postpone the hearing for 1-2 months each time.
The delays are mostly caused by current law enforcement officers who will soon reach retirement age.
They are not interested in closing proceedings on non-rehabilitating grounds, even in cases where the time limit for bringing to criminal responsibility has expired or is about to expire. According to the law, this would be grounds for their dismissal from the service. That is why they benefit from such an ongoing process of investigation or trial. They remain in their positions and can work until the time required to receive a law enforcement officer's pension. Some law enforcement officers do not hide this.
- Do you know the total number of law enforcement officers suspected of crimes against Maidan participants who continue to work in the law enforcement agencies?
I.B.: - I cannot say the exact number, but it is about two dozen people. There used to be much more.
- Finally, I would like to ask how much more time investigators and prosecutors need to complete the investigation into the "Maidan cases"? Now the specialized department of the State Bureau of Investigation is investigating just over 70 such cases...
I.B.: - You need to ask the investigators about the investigation. For the prosecutor, the final stage is the announcement of the verdict.
Of course, society is waiting for the results. And there is an opinion that these cases can't be investigated any longer. But we have to understand that more than 3,000 crimes were committed during the Revolution of Dignity, and their criminal characteristics are specific. There had never been such crimes in domestic criminalistics before. I mean, in terms of mass scale, involvement of law enforcement officers and the entire vertical of power. They make it difficult to collect evidence and support public prosecution in court. In these cases, few people give incriminating testimony against themselves and their accomplices.
Some of the key defendants have left the country altogether.
When the Zakharchenko-Pshonka system was in place, in December 2013 and January-February 2014, important, key evidence and documents were destroyed. They were not interested in the investigation.
I can compare our "Maidan cases" to the investigation in Lithuania of crimes committed during the mass protests of 1991. They investigated and tried them in courts for 17 years. We hope it will take us less time. The main thing is that the judges who hear the "Maidan cases" have the desire and motivation to consider them objectively within a reasonable time.
Alla Shershen, Kyiv