Telepolis: What is the current status of the Maidan sniper investigation by the general prosecutor of Ukraine?
The investigations of the Maidan massacre by the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine (GPU) soon would reach already-extended time limit allotted for investigations. The GPU claims that they already have conclusive evidence concerning responsibility of the members of the Berkut special police company for shooting the Maidan protesters and for the Yanukovych government ordering this mass killing.
Specific results of this investigation continue to be gradually made public for the first time during an ongoing trial of two Berkut members, who are charged with killings of 39 out of 49 protesters on February 20, 2014. Results of forensic medical and ballistic reports, testimonies of eyewitnesses among protesters, and even some videos from the investigation files presented during the trial support major findings of my Maidan massacre study [latest updating Sept 2015, presented to American Political Science Association-APSA, weblink below], specifically that at the very least, the absolute majority of these 49 protesters were killed from the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled buildings. But these major revelations have not been reported by the mainstream media in Ukraine and the West, even though all proceedings of the trial are open, streamed live, and their recordings are available on YouTube.
The Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine simply ignored their own investigation findings and last month announced that their investigation found that this police unit killed not 39 but 48 out of 49 protesters during the Maidan massacre on February 20, 2014. The sole exception apparently is a Georgian protester, exact circumstances and location of whose death are still not confirmed. The GPU charged a commander and two other arrested members of the special Berkut company with the killing of these 48 protesters and even with a terrorist act because of the Maidan massacre. The fact that policemen, equipped with Kalashnikov assault rifles and positioned in a plain view of the protesters and hundreds of foreign and Ukrainian journalists, do not fit any definition of snipers, or concealed sharpshooters whom the protesters and journalists at the time of the massacre identified as killers, is also ignored.
The GPU also last fall launched its investigation of Svoboda deputies and armed Maidan protesters in the Hotel Ukraina. The investigators revealed that a large number of Svoboda deputies lived at the time of the massacre on the 11th floor of this hotel, including a hotel room, from which Maidan-style helmet wearing sniper was filmed by BBC (6m) and ICTV (6m) shooting at the BBC crew and the Maidan protesters. The ICTV video showed at 10:25am a sniper hiding behind the curtains of a window on the 11th floor of the Hotel Ukraina and firing at the Maidan protesters. A BBC video showed a sniper firing at 10:28am from the same window. A BBC correspondent stated in another video that he saw the sniper in this window, and that he was wearing a Maidan-style helmet. A protester stated that he saw a few other protesters shot by “a sniper” from the same hotel window. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine said that the three Svoboda deputies were treated as witnesses and claimed that the investigation of the Maidan massacre was basically completed.
No results of this investigation of deputies of this far right party have been made public. The latest charges against the Berkut likely means that the deputies were left off the hook. The same concerns a GPU investigation of a group of gunmen in one of the rooms of the Hotel Ukraina during the Maidan massacre on February 20, 2014. This investigation was not reported at all, but it was revealed in a court ruling authorizing access to information concerning this group, which the GPU called during this unreported court hearing as possible suspects in killings of protesters and the police. This description fits Ruptly and ZDF videos, which show armed members of the special company of the Maidan Self-Defence in a room of this German TV channel on the 14th floor of the Hotel Ukraina. They were accompanied by an armed Svoboda leader and a commander of this company, who became a member of the parliament. One of this protesters is filmed shooting in the direction of the protesters from a twin-barrel IZh-56 hunting rifle.
The findings of GPU investigations concerning killings of the police on February 18-20 and the Maidan protesters on other dates than February 18 have not been made publicly reported. But Kyiv court decisions in the official online database of such decisions revealed that leaders and members of the Right Sector are investigated as suspects in all these cases. Several such court rulings in November and December 2015 suggest that the Right Sector leadership or its covert armed unit involved in the Orthodox Easter attack  in Donbas are now investigated by the General Prosecutor Office of Ukraine as suspects in killings of Berkut policemen and Internal Troops servicemen on February 18-20, 2014. The Pechersk court decisions state that the investigation found that two wounded attackers of a separatist checkpoint near Sloviansk in Donbas at 2:00am on April 20, 2014 used the same weapons which were used to kill two Internal Troops soldiers and wound three policemen on Maidan on February 18, 2014. Various evidence, such as his business card found after the Sloviansk attack and a later admission by the Right Sector leader in a BBC Ukrainian interview that this was his first battle, show that this was the Right Sector attack.
Court decisions also show that a former member of Vikings, a neo-Nazi unit of the Right Sector, is investigated since the end of the summer in connections with killings of policemen on the Maidan. This investigation follows a public admission by this neo-Nazi that he and a deputy commander of the Vikings unit killed four policemen on February 18, 2014. Other unreported court decisions show that the Prosecutor General Office has been investigating leaders and members of UNA-UNSO, one of the founding members of the Right Sector, for killing three first protesters in the end of January 2014, including an Armenian protester, a Western Ukrainian protester, and a Belarusian member of UNA-UNSO, and for murdering another protester on February 18, 2014 in an UNA-UNSO tent on the Maidan by cutting his throat.
In addition, there is also unreported investigation of involvement in the Maidan massacre of two arrested robbers of a jewelry store in Kremenchuk in May 2015. The court decisions reveal that one of these robbers, who wounded two people during this robbery attempt, had a Makarov handgun, whose number matched the number of one of Makarov handguns taken during a seizure by the Maidan protesters of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) regional headquarters in Ivano-Frankivsk Region on February 18, 2014. The court decision cites the Prosecutor General Office investigation stating that this handgun used during the robbery could have been used to shoot police during the Maidan massacre on February 20, 2014. The names of these protesters are not made public, but they stated during the robbery that they fought in undisclosed Ukrainian formations during the war in Donbas. Hennadii Moskal, the governor of the Transcarpathian Region, has stated that a handgun, which was confiscated from one of Right Sector activists during their recent attack on a ski resort in this Western Ukrainian region, was taken during the same seizure of the Security Service of Ukraine office in Ivano-Frankivsk on February 18, 2014. Several other unreported recent court decisions refer to armed Maidan protesters, who are suspected by the investigation in killings of the police on the Maidan.
Which influence on the investigations had the replacement of two general prosecutors until now in your view?
The biggest visible change is that there have been many GPU briefings and media interviews concerning the investigations. Lawyers of killed protesters now openly state in various interviews that there was no real investigation of the Maidan massacre under two previous General Prosecutors, and that a lot of evidence was destroyed or disappeared when a Svoboda member became the General Prosecutor immediately after the Maidan massacre. But these lawyers also publicly state that the GPU investigation now is stonewalled from the top and that the protracted trials of Berkut members could end in acquittals because of the poor investigation.
Which theory has the general prosecutor about what happened on 20th February? And which proofs does he has for his theory?
The GPU alleges that the members of the Berkut special police company killed 48 out of 49 protesters on February 20 following an order by the Yanukovych government. The GPU publicly states that it has not located any suspects in killings of the protesters on other dates and the police on the Maidan. The latest GPU charges mean that the investigation now denies not only all evidence of “snipers” in the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled locations but also its own findings revealed in a Council of Europe report [November 2015, weblink at footnote below]. This report stated that that the investigation by the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine had evidence that at least three protesters were killed from the Hotel Ukraina and that at least 10 other protesters were killed from rooftops.
The GPU proof that the Berkut massacred protesters is based on videos of Berkut shooting during the Maidan massacre, ballistic reports concerning bullets recovered from killed protesters, and results of investigative experiments conducted in less than half of cases. This is the main proof revealed during the trial. But my analysis and synchronization of various videos showed that the moments of killings of the absolute majority of specific protesters in various videos do not coincide with the specific time of the Berkut gunshots. The prosecution shows during the trial mostly Internet versions of videos and their synchronized and timestamped compilations available on YouTube and not original more complete and better quality files. My content analysis of the videos and their demonstration during the trial showed that some of these videos were deliberately edited out to remove segments showing concealed Maidan shooters and spotters in the Hotel Ukraina, Zhovtnevyi Palace, and other buildings.
The trial revealed that the prosecution did not establish locations, time, and positions of most of the killed protesters on February 20. Onsite investigative experiments were conducted the GPU in a minority of cases without defence lawyers and accused policemen present. Presentations of these reports during the trial showed that they were done without using exact measurements and instruments with significant deviations from the actual positions of the protesters in videos at the moments of their killings. These expert reports did not determine exact ballistic trajectories, an easy task, but only stated without providing any specific calculations or other justifications that the experiments suggested that the specific protesters were killed from the Berkut sector. The Council of Europe report concerning the Maidan massacre investigation and a victims lawyer cited these onsite investigative experiments as the definite proof that the protesters were killed from the Berkut sector.
It is noteworthy that the prosecution investigation case made public during the trial and testimonies of relatives of the killed protesters during this trial mentioned eyewitnesses of specific killings of the protesters only in a minority of cases, even though videos show that there were dozens of potential witnesses in each case. When such witnesses were mentioned in the prosecution investigation, they typically pointed to shooters in the Hotel Ukraina or said that they did not know. The prosecution also has not presented any evidence of an order from then president Yanukovych or his government officials to massacre protesters.
The Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigation of the Maidan massacre concluded that about half of 157 wounded protesters were shot on February 20, 2014 from other sectors than the Berkut sector. This implies the Maidan-controlled sectors. The GPU prosecutor specifically admitted that they are investigating such shooters in the Hotel Ukraina. The GPU prosecutor stated that they also charged the Berkut special police company members with wounding 80 out of 157 protesters and simply omitted the wounding of 77 protesters from the prosecution charges against three Berkut officers and consequently from their trial. This was done because of conclusions of expert reports based on testimonies of the wounded protesters about their positions and directions of gunshots along with videos, photos, and forensic reports.
The GPU charged the same Berkut officers with killing of 48 out of 49 protesters in a terrorist act. The Maidan trial and my APSA paper showed that these charges were made even in spite of forensic ballistic and medical reports, videos, testimonies of the Maidan eyewitnesses, and bullet impact signs pointing to deadly gunshots from the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled locations. For instance, the GPU now charges all special Berkut police company members with killing of a bystander from the Berkut barricade, although eyewitnesses in a video of the shooting around 4:57pm and the reported direction of the entry wound indicate that this bystander was killed in front of Zhovtnevyi Palace from the Hotel Ukraina. A Bildt reporter, who also witnessed this killing, said in his video report from the scene that this man apparently was shot by a sniper on this hotel. He interviewed a Maidan medic who also stated that this person was shot from the Hotel Ukraina. Another video cited in my study shows that after this shooting, a speaker on the Maidan stage threatened to burn the Hotel Ukraina, as they did the Trade Union building a day earlier, because of constant reports of snipers from this hotel.
The GPU also revealed for the first time that the investigation had only several bullets from the 157 wounded protesters. This means that one of the key types of evidence in criminal investigations is, with some exceptions, omitted from the investigation. The GPU stated that only one third of about 100 bullets which were extracted from the killed and wounded protesters and from trees, walls, and soil on the massacre site has been subjected to forensic ballistic examinations. In addition, four policemen were killed and more than 30 wounded on February 20, 2014, but the official investigation still could not reveal publicly or charge any suspects. The GPU admission about the protesters wounded from the Maidan-controlled locations and the omission of most bullets from the investigation and forensic ballistic examination provide another indication that the protesters were massacred in a false flag operation and that the official investigation is falsified for this reason.
Which mistakes made the official investigators in the last two years? What did they not investigate?
In addition to problems with the investigation mentioned above, the official investigation has not even considered a version of the Maidan massacre as a false-flag operation in spite of numerous such evidence. They did not investigate at all until the end of the last year “snipers” in the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled locations. The investigation also has not interrogated Maidan leaders and leaders of the far right organizations concerning the Maidan massacre. The investigators ignored key evidence, such as results of forensic ballistic and medical reports, videos of Maidan snipers and spotters, testimonies of numerous Maidan eyewitnesses, and bullet impact marks pointing to shooters in the Maidan-controlled areas and other similar evidence of “snipers” in the Maidan-controlled buildings.
This evidence was publicly available from the start. For instance, there were BBC, ICTV, Ruptly and other videos of the Maidan shooters in the Hotel Ukraina and snipers or spotters on Zhovtnevyi Palace and videos and photos pointing to snipers killing the protesters from the Maidan positions, specifically the Hotel Ukraina. A French photographer’s photo in Paris Match shows that a wooden shield contains bullet holes with wood chips in its front side, facing the Berkut police positions. Both common sense and forensics suggest that this is an indication of exit holes. This is consistent with reports by wounded protesters about shooters massacring their group from the back, i.e. the Hotel Ukraina, and from sideways.
The massacre of this group, including Volodymyr Zherebnyi, the protestor with this wooden shield, was captured in a famous video. This video was filmed by the Belgian VRT TV from the Hotel Ukraina, and it was broadcast on major TV channels in Ukraine and many Western countries, such as the U.S., the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, as the evidence that government snipers or the police killed these protesters. In contrast, a video interview of a wounded protester who was filmed with his hand extended towards the hotel in that famous video about the snipers wounding him and massacring his group from the Hotel Ukraina and nearby buildings in the Maidan area was not shown by any television channel. It had been seen only by several hundred people on YouTube. This protester and another wounded protester from this group were mentioned as witnesses in the investigation documents presented in court concerning killings of specific protesters by the Berkut police without even mentioning their testimonies or media interviews about snipers in the Hotel Ukraina.
The official investigations of killings of the police and the Maidan protesters are separate, in spite of various evidence, such as same type bullets and similar wounds reported by medics, suggesting that both the police and the protesters were killed by the same covert shooters from the Maidan-controlled buildings and areas. However, the investigation has not undertaken even such basic tasks as matching of bullets to determine whether the police and the protesters were killed from the same weapons.
It is impossible for top GPU investigators to make such numerous and basic mistakes systematically and in the direction of the massacre narrative provided by the top government officials. The Maidan massacre is one of the best documented if not the best documented mass killing in history, and it would have been easy to solve this case very fast. This is another indicator that the investigation is falsified for political reasons following directives from the top.
I know from my personal experience how easily court cases are falsified and evidence is simply ignored in Ukraine following such orders from the top. My house, which I inherited from my mother in Western Ukraine and which I used for my research visits to Ukraine, was seized by court decisions, based on easily refutable false evidence, following such an order from the top in a reversal of a previous court decision by the same judge and in disregard of numerous evidence presented in courts by me, my lawyers, and testimonies by 12 of my neighbors. But the Supreme Court of Ukraine and the High Court of Ukraine also turned a blind eye to this open falsification and issued last year rulings that this case was decided without any violation of the law and legal procedures. As a result, my neighbors, who previously took care of the house and its heating in my absence, tell me that the house and all my books and other personal property there are being gradually destroyed because of lack of care and heating.
Can you give a very short summary of your theory about the sniper-killings on 20th February in Kiev?
My academic study of the Maidan massacre concludes that this mass killing was a false flag operation, which was rationally planned and carried out with a goal of the overthrow of the government and seizure of power. It found various evidence of the involvement of an alliance of the far right organizations, specifically the Right Sector and Svoboda, and oligarchic parties, such as Fatherland. Concealed shooters and spotters were located in at least 20 Maidan-controlled buildings or areas. The various evidence that the protesters were killed from these locations include some 70 testimonies, primarily by Maidan protesters, several videos of “snipers” targeting protesters from these buildings, comparisons of positions of the specific protesters at the time of their killing and their entry wounds, and bullet impact signs. The study uncovered various videos and photos of armed Maidan “snipers” and spotters in many of these buildings. Unreported revelations from the Maidan massacre trial and the investigations by the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine, such as forensic ballistic and medical reports, testimonies of eyewitnesses in the investigation documents, newly released videos, and court rulings concerning investigations of the far right involvement in the Maidan massacre, corroborated major findings of my study.
I presented an expanded and updated version of my Maidan massacre paper at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco in September 2015. This paper is freely downloadable without any registration from the Social Sciences Research Network and APSA conference websites, and it is also available on my Academia and Researchgate websites. My chapter summarizing the Maidan massacre study is scheduled for publication on February 11, 2016 in a Routledge book edited by two Canadian political scientists. My article, which includes examination of the role of the Maidan massacre in escalation of the conflict in Ukraine into a civil war in Donbas and subsequent Russian military interventions, is forthcoming in a special issue of a British refereed journal concerning the conflict in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office disputes the theory of a “third force”. What do you say about investigator Alexej Donskojs statements: “We have no evidence that protesters and policemen were killed by the same people with the same weapons”? Most of the protesters were killed by Kalashnikov-bullets, he said one year ago. And policemen were armed with Kalashnikov-rifles. (http://www.welt.de/politik/article137679769/Das-Maidan-Blutbad-bleibt-noch-immer-raetselhaft.html )
The recent charges of the Berkut police with killings 48 out of 49 protesters mean that the GPU investigation de facto admitted absence of any evidence concerning involvement of any “third force” in the Maidan massacre.
The new charges mean that the investigation now denies not only all evidence of snipers in the Maidan-controlled locations but also its own findings revealed in a Council of Europe report. This report stated that that the investigation by the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine had evidence that at least three protesters were killed from the Hotel Ukraina and that at least 10 other protesters were killed from rooftops.
The head of the Prosecutor General Office and the head of its department in charge of the investigation of the Maidan crimes both publicly stated in spring and fall of the last year that the GPU investigation did not have evidence of Putin’s aide involvement or the Russian government involvement in the massacre. The President of Ukraine, the head of SBU, and the National Security and Defence Council all made claims concerning such an involvement a year ago.
The unreported forensic ballistic reports made public for the first time during the November 12 hearing of the Maidan massacre trial revealed that bullets extracted from the protesters did not match bullets which were fired from Berkut weapons and stored in the central bullet database of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (5h14m-5h54m). President Poroshenko along with his heads of the Security Service and the Prosecutor General Office made widely publicized statements on February 5, 2016 that the SBU located Kalashnikov assault rifles, a Kalashnikov machine gun and a hunting rifle which were used during the Maidan massacre and that they offered definite proof that the Maidan protesters were killed from these weapons. The SBU and the GPU stated on February 6 that pieces of 23 AKMs, one Dragunov sniper rifle, and one Izh shotgun were found in August 2015 in Kyiv City and that the recovered serial numbers of 12 AKMs match the numbers of 24 AKMs of the special Berkut company, which is charged with killing 48 out of 49 protesters.
But the heads of the SBU and GPU investigative departments also revealed that forensic ballistic examinations to match these firearms to bullets, which were recovered from the killed protesters, still have to be conducted six months after the weapons discovery. This is another dog that did not bark evidence. Since bullets fired from a firearm get specific marks, such marks allow matching of bullets to a specific weapon by comparing them with such bullet samples even without the original weapon. Such matching of bullets is equivalent to matching fingerprints from a crime scene to fingerprints in a police database.
The forensic ballistic examinations of bullets extracted from bodies concluded that 16 out of 39 protesters, with whose killings Berkut members were initially charged, were killed from 7.62×39 caliber weapons, two protesters were killed by pellets, and one by unspecified hunting ammunition. But they listed Kalashnikov-based hunting carbines and other firearms of this caliber, in addition to such caliber Kalashnikov assault rifles. Videos, photos, bullets extracted from killed policemen, police testimonies, and even a TV interview of one of the Maidan shooters show that the Maidan snipers were armed with both Kalashnikov assault rifles and Kalashnikov-based hunting carbines during the massacre, specifically those based in the Hotel Ukraina.
The long-withheld ballistic expert reports determined that at least nine of these 16 protesters were killed from the same single weapon. Forensic medical reports concerning locations and directions of entry wounds, videos showing the moments of killings of most of these protesters, and testimonies of Maidan eyewitnesses show that these protesters were killed from this firearm from the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina and not from the Berkut positions on the ground. This evidence corroborates my study findings that these nine protesters were shot dead from this hotel. A brother of another of these protestors testified in a court hearing that his brother was killed not from a Berkut position but from a top floor of the Hotel Ukraina based on his position in a video at the moment of his killing and an entry wound location and a steep wound channel.
The official forensic bullet reports, the positions of these protesters at the moments of their killings and directions of their wound in forensic medical reports show that at least two other protesters were killed from different 7.62×39 caliber weapons from Bank Arkada, Muzeiny Lane Buildings, and the Hotel Ukraina, all of which were then in the Maidan-controlled area. A very steep angle of a bullet confirmed in a forensic medical report and testimonies of Maidan eyewitnesses in the prosecution investigative documents concerning his killing suggest that at least one another protester was killed from the Hotel Ukraina. But only a core of a 7.62mm bullet was recovered in his body. The forensic ballistic report in his case and cases of some other protesters stated that the bullet was either a military grade Kalashnikov type of its hunting expanding hollow point version. Since no bullets were recovered in bodies of the majority of the killed protesters, this indicates that that at least the absolute majority of the protesters were shot dead from the Maidan-controlled buildings, mainly the Hotel Ukraina.
Forensic medical reports made public during the trial confirmed that the absolute majority of the protesters were killed from steep or relatively large angles, i.e. from nearby buildings, and from directions of Maidan-controlled locations. Specifically, at least 12 protesters out of 21, whose cases were already examined during the trial, had wounds at significant angles, three protesters were shot from nearly horizontal positions, while specific directions of the wounds have not been revealed in the cases of six protesters. The Berkut policemen were positioned at nearly horizontal levels with killed protesters. The evidence revealed during the Maidan massacre trial also indicated that even protesters killed from nearly horizontal positions were also shot from Maidan-controlled areas.
Ivan Katchanovski PhD is a researcher and lecturer at the School of Political Studies of the University of Ottawa. The English text of the above interview is published online here on Academia.edu. The original in German is here.
The Snipers’ Massacre on Maidan Square in Ukraine (updated Sept. 2015), by Ivan Katchanovski
Ukraine failing to probe protester deaths in Odessa (May 2014) and Kyiv (Feb 2014), restates European Council panel, Bloomberg News, Nov 4, 2015