On February 20, 2014, at the height of the violence during Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests, officers of the now-disbanded Berkut riot police took up arms against the activists protesting on the central streets of Kyiv, killing 48 and injuring a further 80.
26 former riot police officers have since been declared suspects in the cases relating to the shootings. However there are only five currently on trial. 20 suspected officers managed to flee to almost immediately after the revolution – 16 to Russia and four to annexed Crimea. One officer is even alleged to have fought in Syria for a Russian mercenary group.
Part 2 of Hromadske’s investigation into the destiny of the former Berkut officers (see Part 1 here) focuses on Ruslan Horbyk, who served in Berkut and, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, was on Instytutska Street on the day of the shootings. In late February 2014, shortly after the events on Maidan, he left Ukraine. He died four years later in February 2018 under mysterious circumstances.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office received information from residents of the Vinnytsia region that Horbyk could have died in Syria during an operation with the Wagner private military company. Mercenaries from this company have been linked to the war in Donbas, and, most recently, with the war in Syria.
While this information is being checked, Hromadske traveled to Horbyk’s hometown and chatted with the late man’s family and friends to see whether they believe there could be any truth to this allegation.