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‘100% sure Berkut police didn’t shoot people in Kiev’ – ex-Ukrainian interior minister

Published time: April 05, 2014 19:28
Police officers are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police on February 19, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Police officers are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police on February 19, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Berkut riot police were targets – not shooters – during the Maidan standoff, ex-Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko said, adding that a fair investigation of the tragic events in Kiev is impossible under the biased, coup-imposed government.

During his interview with Russia’s Channel One, Zakharchenko stressed that he is “100% sure that it wasn't the police” who used firearms against the people during the February Maidan standoff.

“Berkut riot police were without their service weapons. On February 18 and 19, 86 police officers were wounded by gunshots. Fourteen of them died. They were internal troops, military, Berkut, and traffic police, who were shot at their post checkpoint,” he said.

On February 20, Berkut forces and internal troops encountered point shooting in Kiev’s center and “that’s why they actually, began retreating,” the former interior minister explained.

“It’s clear for any reasonable person that if it were the law enforcement officers who opened fire, they would’ve probably been advancing. That would’ve been the reason to use firearms. Meanwhile, they began retreating after the killing of their troops began,” he said.

According to Zakharchenko, the servicemen that were brought to Kiev hospitals had gunshot wounds from 9mm pistols, hunting rifles, buckshots, and smooth-bore weapons.

The ex-minister stressed that the snipers – who fired at both police and demonstrators – were stationed in three buildings, which were under the control of Maidan protestors.

“It was a provocation staged with only one motive – to launch another attack on law enforcement, launch an attack aimed at seizing the governmental buildings and institutes. That’s the logic behind all those events,” he said.

February 20 became the bloodiest day of the Ukrainian coup, with 42 people killed in Kiev.

Police officers are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police on February 19, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Zakharchenko believes the self-proclaimed government in Kiev is biased, and is therefore incapable of pursuing a fair investigation of the shootings in country’s capital.

He added that no one is investigating the gunshot wounds received by law enforcement officers during the Maidan standoff.

“Without a nonpartisan international investigation team that would undertake a thorough inquiry into the events that occurred in Ukraine, we won’t get such an objective investigation,”
the ex-minister said.

According to Zakharchenko, Western nations – which fully supported the Ukrainian coup – were aware that Maidan radicals had firearms in their possession.

"I had meetings with various international representatives, including the US ambassador to Ukraine, as well as with EU ambassador Jan Tombinski. I repeatedly called them and said that there were firearms at Independence Square,”
he said.

The identity of the ‘Maidan snipers’ is a hot topic in Ukraine and abroad. Twelve Berkut officers were detained earlier this week for allegedly being part of the so-called ‘Black Company,’ which was given sniper rifles to provide cover for its retreating comrades on February 20.

Coup-appointed Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk says that ousted President Yanukovich is the one who should answer for the killings of Maidan protesters.

Meanwhile, a phone conversation leaked last month between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet contains strong suspicion that the snipers were hired by Maidan leaders.

In his interview, Zakharchenko also criticized the National Guard – the new security force put together by the coup-imposed Ukrainian authorities. The force was created from interior troops and Maidan self-defense forces.

Vitaly Zakharchenko (RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Vasilenko)

"There is a feeling that they came up with this National Guard in order to create...something like stormtroopers to legalize the militants who don’t want to surrender their weapons, so that they’d carry the real power – thus matching them against the police and the army and restoring order with its own revolutionary forces,” he said.

The National Guard has already recruited 30,000 soldiers, according to Kiev.

RIA Novosti is citing sources in the Ukrainian Defense and Interior Ministries, who say the creation of the National Guard is treated by them as a symbol of distrust from Kiev authorities.

But Zakharchenko has serious doubts about the National Guard's ability to work effectively.

"Well, I just can’t understand, for example, how they will execute guard duties or how this will look like at all. How can they ensure the rule of law if they were engaged in debacles, if they killed law enforcement officers, attacked them and burned with Molotov cocktails. How much trust will the population have towards those guards? Whom will they be defending?” he said.

Zakharchenko served as Ukraine’s interior minister from November 7, 2011 to February 21, 2014, when parliament removed him from office.

Kiev February 20, 2014. (Reuters / )

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