In Background, Documents, Ukraine

By Ivan Katchanovski, PhD, School of Political Studies & Department of Communication, University of Ottawa, Canada, Oct 1, 2014

The following is an 8,100 word paper presented at a seminar by the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, Canada on October 1, 2014. The full paper is published on Academia.edu.

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Introduction to the paper by its author:

The snipers’ massacre question

The massacre of several dozen Maidan protesters on February 20, 2014 was a turning point in Ukrainian politics and a tipping point in the escalating conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine. The mass killing of the protesters and the mass shooting of the police that preceded it led to the overthrow of the highly corrupt and pro-Russian but democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych and gave a start to a large-scale violent conflict that continues now in Donbas in Eastern Ukraine. A conclusion promoted by the post-Yanukovych governments and the media in Ukraine that the massacre was perpetrated by government snipers on a Yanukovych order has been nearly universally accepted by the Western governments and the media, at least publicly, without concluding an investigation and without all evidence considered. For instance, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in his speech to the US Congress on September 18, 2014 again claimed that the Yanukovych government overthrow resulted from mass peaceful protests against police violence, in particular, killings of more than 100 protesters by snipers on February 20, 2014.

The question is which side organized the “snipers’ massacre.” This paper is the first academic study of this crucial case of the mass killing. Analysis of a large amount of evidence in this study suggests that certain elements of the Maidan opposition, including its extremist far right wing, were involved in this massacre in order to seize power and that the government investigation was falsified for this reason.

Table of contents:

  1. Evidence
  2. An academic investigation
  3. Conclusion (text enclosed below here:)

Conclusion:
The analysis and the evidence presented in this academic investigation put the Euromaidan and the conflict in Ukraine into a new perspective. The seemingly irrational mass shooting and killing of the protesters and the police on February 20 appear to be rational from self-interest based perspectives of rational choice and Weberian theories of instrumentally-rational action. This includes the following: the Maidan leaders gaining power as a result of the massacre, President Yanukovych and his other top government officials fleeing on February 21, 2014 from Kyiv and then from Ukraine, and the retreat by the police. The same concerns Maidan protesters being sent under deadly fire into positions of no important value and then being killed wave by wave from unexpected directions. Similarly, snipers killing unarmed protesters and targeting foreign journalists but not Maidan leaders, the Maidan Self-Defense and the Right Sector headquarters, the Maidan stage, and pro-Maidan photographs become rational. While such actions are rational from a rational choice or instrumentally-rational theoretical perspective, the massacre not only ended many human lives but also undermined democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Ukraine.

The massacre of the protesters and the police represented a violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine and a major human rights crime. This violent overthrow constituted an undemocratic change of government. It gave start to a large-scale violent conflict that turned into a civil war in Eastern Ukraine, to a Russian military intervention in support of separatists in Crimea and Donbas, and to a de-facto break-up of Ukraine. It also escalated an international conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine. The evidence indicates that an alliance of elements of the Maidan opposition and the far right was involved in the mass killing of both protesters and the police, while the involvement of the special police units in killings of some of the protesters cannot be entirely ruled out based on publicly available evidence. The new government that came to power largely as a result of the massacre falsified its investigation, while the Ukrainian media helped to misrepresent the mass killing of the protesters and the police. The evidence indicates that the far right played a key role in the violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine. This academic investigation also brings new important questions that need to be addressed.

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