The Ukrainian revolution that began as a peaceful rally in support of the country’s European integration (the EuroMaidan), and later transformed into massive anti-government protests, resulted in an armed clash between protesters and police officers. The police purposefully opened fire on participants of the protests. The exact number of casualties is still to be determined.
The mass rallies in support of Ukraine’s European integration began on 21 November 2013. After the violent dispersal of activists on Independence Square on the night of 31 November, 2013, the mass anti-government protests began. The fundamental unwillingness of the country’s leadership to accept the demands of protesters led to a gradual escalation of the conflict.
The height of the confrontations fell on 18-20 February 2014. At that time, dozens of people were killed in Kiev – both protesters and police officers. It is worth mentioning that the circumstances surrounding the death of the protesters differed significantly at various stages of the conflict. During the events of 18-19 February, 2014, most of the reported casualties resulted from beatings and multiple gunshot wounds. On the other hand, on 20 February, 2014, many activists were killed by single gunshot wounds to the head, neck or heart. This suggests that shots were fired with the sole purpose of killing. In addition, the law enforcement agencies also used snipers. Targeted shots were fired on unarmed protesters (and even medical workers). A demonstrative example is the case of a 21-year-old medical volunteer, Olesya Zhukovskaya. On 20 February, 2014, a sniper shot her in the neck. Thanks to timely medical assistance, activists managed to save the girl’s life.
Currently, investigators are striving to determine the identities of persons involved in the shooting of protesters in Kiev (including the events of 20 February 2014). Thus far, no official results of the investigation have been announced. Presently, there are at least three versions of what happened:
- The People’s Deputy of Ukraine, General-Lieutenant Gennadiy Moskal, stated that, according to the information obtained by him, “members of special operation units of the internal troops of Ukraine and the special unit ‘Omega’ were involved in the shooting (…). Former first deputy of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation assisted in the preparation of special operations. “The assistance in the preparation of special operations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine was rendered by former first deputy of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation who lived in the ‘Kiev’ hotel (the expenses connected with his accommodation and meals were covered by the Security Service of Ukraine). The Ukrainian authorities engaged a specialist from Russia. All the personal data of the Russian citizen will be provided to the General Prosecutor’s Office, and the extent of his guilt will be determined by the investigation”, Gennadiy Moskal stated.
- The incumbent head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, reported that a third, non-Ukrainian, party participated in the shooting of protesters in Kiev. “An extensive and serious investigation is underway in this case. I think the day will come when we will be able to announce the facts: who took part in the shooting, when people were shooting, and who gave the order to do so. These facts are now being gathered together into a single comprehensive network. There is one thing I can say for sure: the key factor in the conflict which resulted in the bloodshed in Kiev and turned the country upside down, was a third force. And this force came from outside of Ukraine”, the minister enunciated. Gennadiy Moskal denied this version of developments. In his opinion, the current leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine are striving to rebuild the reputation of these agencies and therefore point to the potential involvement of a ‘third party’.
- According to the investigation conducted by Ukrainian journalists, members of Ukrainian organised criminal groups, mercenary snipers, former leaders of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and even the Russian Federal Security Service were involved in the shooting of protesters in Kiev. In particular, journalists reported the involvement in the bloody events in Kiev of Aleksey Chebotarev – the leader of an organised criminal group engaged in large-scale clandestine manufacture of alcoholic beverages. According to journalists, Chebotarev’s people provoked the dispersal of the Maidan on 31 November, 2014 and the events on Bankovskaya Street on 1 December 2013.
Chebotarev was also involved in the payment of ‘bonuses’ to the officers of ‘Berkut’ Special Forces and internal troops of Ukraine for their work performed. During the sanguinary events in Kiev (throughout all three months of the conflict) he had the power to coordinate the actions of ‘Berkut’ and ‘Titushky’ [the hired provocateurs]. Chebotarev also rewarded police management with bonuses for their activities. He also has direct and friendly relations with the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Vitaliy Zakharchenko. Earlier, the son of politician Anatoliy Gritsenko, one of the leaders of the Automaidan, Aleksey Gritsenko, wrote on his Facebook page that Chebotarev’s gang was involved in kidnappings of the Maidan activists and hiring of ‘Titushky’. Aleksey Chebotarev had his ‘cover’ in the Security Service of Ukraine – the head of the Department for the Protection of National Statehood, General Sergey Ganzha.
On 20 February 2014, on Institutskaya Street, where snipers killed most of the protesters, Sergey Pankov was detained by the Maidan activists. As it transpired, Pankov was involved in Aleksey Chebotarev’s OCG and, supposedly, he could have worked as a sniper during the shooting of protesters.
The names of 112 people (including the law enforcement officers) killed in Kiev and the regions of Ukraine as a result of the events associated with the EuroMaidan have been published so far. 101 of them participated in the anti-government protests (Annex 1). Civil society activists say that the death toll is far higher. For example, among the members of the anti-government protests, approximately 300 people are still considered missing. Thus, the number of fatalities among the protesters may still increase significantly. It should be also taken into account that during the conflict, the media reported on unidentified bodies, discovered in Kiev and near the city:
- According to unconfirmed information, on 22 January, 2014, in the forest near Kiev, another body (with signs of torture) was discovered next to the body of Yuriy Verbytskyi.
- On 21 January, 2014, one protester died after falling from the colonnade of the ‘Dinamo’ stadium.
- According to the commandant’s office and the medical workers of the EuroMaidan, on 22 January, 2014, two more activists (in addition to Sergey Nigoyan and Mikhail Zhiznevskiy) were killed on Hrushevskoho Street. Their bodies were taken away by police officers.
- On 18 February, 2014, a decapitated body was discovered in the centre of Kiev.
- On 19 February, 2014, two people died during the fire in the House of Trade Unions in Kiev. One of them was identified thanks to applied expertise – his name was Volodymyr Topiy. The identity of the second victim remains unknown.
Also, the names of 11 deceased police officers and internal troops (Annex 2) were made public. However, this number may also increase significantly. On 21 February, 2014, the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine reported the death of 16 officers of military services. The Ministry also reported that 130 law enforcement officers had been shot. In total, 410 officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been hospitalised since 18 February 2014.
In general, during the clashes in Kiev and the regions of Ukraine, at least 113 people were killed, 112 of which were identified. Among the victims are five citizens of other countries (Georgia – 3, Russia – 1, and Belarus – 1). The largest number of casualties were residents of Lvov Province (19 people) and Kiev Province (15 people).
The Open Dialogue Foundation hereby calls on the Ukrainian authorities to carry out an objective and comprehensive investigation into the crimes committed by all parties to the conflict during the events associated with the EuroMaidan. In order to ensure the transparency and objectivity of the investigation, both Ukrainian civil society experts and international experts should be engaged in the proceedings.