Ukraine will have to restart investigations into crimes committed against participants of the Revolution of Dignity, otherwise known as the “Maidan Case,” after the job was handed over from the Prosecutor General’s Office to the State Investigation Bureau earlier this month. The Prosecutor General’s Office was stripped of its pre-trial investigation function but will still have control over and organize the investigation.
A procedural management department was created for the Maidan case under the prosecutor’s office to accommodate these changes. The new unit will be headed by Viktor Mysyak, the ex-deputy head of the department of organization and procedural management of special category criminal proceedings. Lawyers for the families of the Heavenly Hundred – Euromaidan activists that were killed during the protests that started in November 2013 and went on until February 2014 – did not support this appointment.
The investigation of the cases is also in jeopardy because transferring them to the State Bureau of Investigations is not easy, and, furthermore, the bureau does not have enough investigators to conduct work of this scale.
As the bureau awaits legislative amendments to increase the number of its employees, Hromadske looks back at how the investigations have progressed over the past six years.
The Scope of the Case
The Prosecutor General’s Office says that most of these crimes have already been solved, meaning, they have established the circumstances and who the organizers and executors were. There are 66 suspects of the Maidan killings but in some cases, specific executors have not yet been established.
Meanwhile, 36 suspects continue to work in law enforcement, 10 of them in leadership positions. These are persons who are accused of organizing the murders. In Kyiv alone, ex-Berkut officers make up 30% of the police force. Some of their names feature in criminal cases.
The Cases of Ex-Berkut
There are 26 ex-Berkut officers of the so-called “black company” that are suspected of shooting at Maidan participants. 21 of them are hiding. The head of the “company”, Dmytro Sadovnyk, fled to Russia in the fall of 2014, while a further 20 ex-Berkuters fled at the end of February. 16 of them are in Russia and 4 – in annexed Crimea. Some managed to obtain Russian citizenship, others – asylum.
Despite the request from the Ukrainian prosecutor's office, Russia refuses to hand them over.
Suspect in the Maidan executions and former Berkut officer Dmytro Sadovnyk during proceedings in the Kyiv Court of Appeal, September 25, 2014. Photo: Oleksandr Synytsia/UNIAN
Therefore, only five are on trial. Hearings are still ongoing in Kyiv’s Svyatoshynskyi court.
From left to right: Former Berkut officers Serhiy Zinchenko, Pavlo Abroskin and Serhiy Tamtura on trial at the Svyatoshynskiy district court in Kyiv, November 14, 2017. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske
From left to right: Former Berkut officers Oleksandr Marinchenko and Oleh Yanyshevskyi on trial at the Svyatoshynskiy district court in Kyiv, November 14, 2017. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova/Hromadske
However, ex-Berkut officer Andriy Khandrykin, who was accused of beating and torturing Euromaidan activists in January 2014, was acquitted this August. Prosecutors plan to appeal the decision.
Former Berkut officer Andriy Khandrykin (right), accused of beating and torturing EuroMaidan activists, with a lawyer in the Dniprovskyi District Court of Kyiv November 13, 2018. Photo: Victoria Roshchyna/Hromadske
Murder and “Titushky” on the Maidan
Hearings are also continuing for three “titushky” – paid thugs used by the Ukrainian government against protestors during EuroMaidan – Serhiy Kostenko, Oleh Heban and Hennadiy Pohrebnyi. They are accused of obstructing peaceful gatherings and attempted murder (shooting at activists) on February 18, 2014. These events preceded the murder of journalist Viacheslav Veremii.
After more than three years on trial, the organizer of the attack on Veremii, Yuriy Krysin, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Yuriy Krysin at the Darnytskyi district court of Kyiv during a sitting examining the murder case of journalist Viacheslav Veremii, May 31, 2018. Photo: Victoria Roshchyna/Hromadske
Armen Sarkisyan, who, according to investigators, organized a gathering of the“titushky” and acted in the interests of ex-Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, is still on the wanted list.
Yanukovych and Close Officials
Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, in January 2019, was sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison for treason and assistance in waging war against Ukraine. Although, the attempt to prove in court that Yanukovych acted with the goal of separatism and tried to move the state border came to no avail.
Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014 and remains there to this day. Imprisoning the fugitive president is only possible after his detention. Yanukovych's lawyers filed five appeals against the verdict and those hearings are ongoing.
Fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovych testifies in the Maidan case via video link at Kyiv’s Svyatoshynskyi district court, November 28, 2016. Photo: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA
Another nine officials who led the country until the end of February 2014 are suspected of organizing a criminal group, obstructing a rally on the Maidan, among other things. Seven of them are on the wanted list and two remain in Ukraine. They are ex-head of the Party of Regions faction Oleksandr Yefremov and former Minister of Justice Oleksandr Lavrynovych.
Yefremov is accused of organizing the seizure of Luhansk Regional Administration buildings in the spring of 2014, complicity in the seizure of Ukraine’s Security Service buildings in the Luhansk Region, and deliberately acting to change the border of Ukraine’s state and territory. He is also charged with high treason and organizing and assisting with the creation and activities of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic”. Additionally, he is accused of illegally seizing property of state coal mining enterprise "Luhanskvuhillia.”
Starobilskyi district court in the Luhansk Region is looking at the case. Yefremov has been in custody for more than three years. Now, the court has significantly softened the measure of restraint - Yefremov must now simply agree to appear in court.
Yefremov is also one of the defendants in the case of the “January 16 dictator laws.” After amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, which drew a line between jurisdiction of criminal proceedings for corruption offenses between local courts and the High Anti-Corruption Court, the case was transferred to the High Anti-corruption Court. However, there, it was determined that the case did not fall within its competence. Now they must send it to another court.
Former Party of Regions faction head Oleksandr Yefremov on trial at the Starobilskyi district court in the Luhansk Region, May 24, 2019. Photo: Ivan Bukhtiiarov/Hromadske
Lavrynovych, meanwhile, is accused of embezzling more than $1 million from the budget in 2013. This is from a report that the Ministry of Justice ordered, at a higher price from foreign company Skadden, for the case "Tymoshenko vs. Ukraine", which was heard in the European Court of Human Rights.
In another case, Lavrynovych is charged with facilitating the seizure of power by Yanukovych and participating in organizing a constitutional coup in 2010.
Former Minister of Justice Oleksandr Lavrynovych in the courtroom of Kyiv’s Pecherskyi District Court, September 14, 2017. Photo: Volodymyr Hontar /UNIAN
The former Minister of Justice faces 5 to 10 years' imprisonment.
This story was produced as part of a transitional justice project jointly with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).
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