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Three years after killings at Euromaidan only slow progress in investigations

More than 100 protesters and from 13 to 23 law enforcers were killed in Kyiv at the end of February 2014. Photo:
Three years after killings at Euromaidan only slow progress in investigations

On February 18-21 Ukraine commemorates the darkest days in its modern history – the killings of the peaceful protesters of the Euromaidan revolution. Three years ago these people became victims of the tyrannic regime of then president Viktor Yanukovych.

Three years later, the main street of Kyiv is full of flowers. The portraits of the Donbas war heroes were added to the portraits of the fallen civilians whose lives ended in Euromaidan before the war broke out. Just like three years ago, the city center is cordoned by the policemen and the National Guard. This is explained by the need to prevent provocations. However, the similarity of the situation three years ago irritates and angers Ukrainians who question whether those in power now are any different from those against whom the protesters stood up to 3 years ago.

And the fact that those who are responsible for the crimes are not punished only adds fuel to the anger.

Graphics: Ganna Naronina

New details about the shootings emerged

A video by Jus Talionis reveals what happened on 20 February 2014 from 8:53 to 11:00 am

Three years later the new details on the case are still emerging.

For the third anniversary of the sniper massacre, the community Jus Talionis published the 2 hours video called the Zhovtnevyi Hights. It reveals what happened on 20 February 2014 from 8:53 to 11:00 am. The screen is divided into 16 parts, which were synchronized with the timing of the events. According to Jus Talionis, the time differences of every camera were taken into account in the creation of the video.

The first part of the video was published on the first anniversary of the tragic events in 2015.

As Pavlo Dykan, lawyer of the Heavenly Hundred, told during a press conference dedicated to the third anniversary of the massacre, over the three years the general picture of what took place and the executors of many crimes at Euromaidan are identified. According to him, the collection of evidence is ongoing and over the last year many of them were identified, like the guns which were used against the protesters.

The lawyer notes a positive factor influencing the investigation is the qualification of the actions of the sniper-shooting police as a terrorist act.

But frustratingly, on the third anniversary of the crime, the guilty are not punished and the main organizers are still not identified.

Who gave the orders

At the end of November 2016, Yanukovych took part in the in the court proceedings against the fighters of the Berkut special unit as a witness

The fugitive ex-President Yanukovych is considered to be the main organizer of the bloody tragedy in the center of Kyiv. However, officially his guilt is not recognized.

In 2015, then General Prosecutor Viktor Shokyn stated that Yanukovych himself gave the orders to shoot. Yanukovych who was a witness in the court proceeding against the fighters of the special unit Berkut denied knowing anything about the orders to them on February 20. He also denied the fact that during the tragic events he consulted with the Russian president Vladimir Putin and denied that he contacted his assistant Vladislav Surkov. Such accusations were voiced over by the prosecutor in the case about Berkut fighters.

Recently the Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko stated that after amendments to the law on the conviction in absentia the new accusations will be filed against the organizers. Talking about the organizers he mentioned Yanukovych, ex-Minister of the Internal Affairs Vitaliy Zakharchenko, and the ex Head of the Security Services of Ukraine Oleksandr Yakymenko.

So far these are only promises and the so-called “big case against Yanukovych” has not been provided to the court.

“In fact, there is no big case against Yanukovych and cannot be. There are some criminal cases on Yanukovych’s crimes, but they can not be combined into one big case, because they are at different stages of readiness. And when they will be combined the terms of the pre-trial investigation will be over. It will not be possible to even inform the parties on the cases,” says an attorney Victoria Deyneka.

According to her, first of all the amendments to the legislation on the conviction in absentia have to be passed to exclude the possibility of selective justice.

Who implemented it

The Berkut riot police are considered tp be the main implementers of the criminal orders during the protests. However, not only they were noticed to be shooting at the protesters. Photo:

In the end of 2016, Lutsenko also stated that 35 people are convicted, 152 people were charged and are involved in the court proceedings, and 190 are under the investigation.

However, only 1 case out of these 35 verdicts foresee imprisonment. And the case is not against the direct killers, but against a criminal who took part in dispersing the protests in 2014. The remaining 34 are verdicts with conditional terms or suspended sentences.

The criminal proceedings against those involved in the killings are ongoing in the Sviatoshyn Court of Kyiv. There are 4 Berkut officers and the deputy commander of Kyiv Berkut on trial. The rest ran away to Russia or to occupied Crimea.

“In fact, every single murder and every single attempt of murder are under investigation. Everything has to be compared and evidence of the overall picture has to be explored. I think that the case will be considered at least for another year,” said Yevheniya Zakrevska, the lawyer of the relatives of those who was killed.

Also according to the lawyer, new implementors can be revealed in the case. As videos from the events show, people in Berkut uniforms weren’t the only ones shooting the protesters.

Why the investigation is delayed and what can help the progress

The lawyers who work on the cases of the Euromaidan killings. Photo: Euromaidan SOS Facebook page

The lawyers involved in the work on the cases are confident that the greatest obstacle to the investigations is the absence of systematic reforms and lustration of the law enforcements and the judiciary.

They also point out another aspect:

“Without the active participation of Ukraine in the International Criminal Court, without the ratification of the Rome Statute, learning and implementing the mechanisms of hybrid justice in Ukraine, one can not expect fast investigation and consideration of the proceedings,” says Dykan.

Also the lawyers are confident that legislation making it impossible to effectively investigate the crimes is being adopted in Ukraine on purpose. One of them is the law which prevents the participants of protests from prosecution. Because of the law, the policemen can’t be brought to justice, as they submit requests to close criminal cases. The lawyers say that without bringing the policemen to justice it will be impossible to reveal the system which prosecuted the activists of the Euromaidan.

Another law, on the conviction in absentia, can ultimately lead to the perpetrators escaping culpability. The lawyers are confident that the law was adopted in the interests of ousted ex-President Yanukovych.

Other obstacles contributing to the little progress are the difficulty of the cases, the loss of much evidence in 2014, the escape of the key involved figures out of the country, the lack of attention from the state and the General Prosecutors office to the investigation, and little cooperation with international institutions and law enforcement of other countries which have an experience in such cases.

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