Ukraine's Flawed 2014 Maidan Massacre Investigation - Interview with Ivan Katchanovski
by Telepolis via New Cold War
February 20, 2017
Text published by Ivan Katchanovski on Academia.edu. A German-language version of this interview is published in Telepolis, Feb 20, 2017.
Telepolis: Are there new insights about the identity of the murderers?
Ivan Katchanovski: The Prosecutor General Office charged members and commanders of a special Berkut police company with killings of 48 out of 49 protesters and wounding 80 out of 157 on February 20, 2014. Their trial continues. But forensic medical and ballistic reports and testimonies of several wounded protesters during this trial corroborated my study finding that the protesters were shot by concealed shooters from the Maidan-controlled locations, such as the Hotel Ukraina and Bank Arkada.
Andriy Parubiy (circled) watches Maidan paramilitaries exit
the Ukraina Hotel with sniper rifles concealed, February 2014
Some of wounded protesters testified and said that they saw “snipers” in black clothes and black balaclavas with weapons in different windows and on the roofs of the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled buildings.
The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine under Yanukovych stated in Russian court that his SBU [Ukraine security police] officers identified several Maidan snipers by name, including some Georgians and a former SBU Alfa officer who then worked in one of Maidan parties security. He also named Volodymyr Parasiuk–who then headed a special Maidan company established in the Music Conservatory with the help of the Right Sector–and his father as Maidan snipers. The ex-SBU chief stated that during the Maidan massacre on February 20, 2014, the SBU located ten snipers in the Music Conservatory, obtained their photos and then tracked five of them entering the Hotel Ukraina but lost track of the other five snipers. The former head of the Yanukovych administration testified in the same Russian court that one of the Maidan leaders hired snipers from Georgia and the Baltic States. He named one of the alleged Georgian snipers identified in a protocol of his interrogation by senior Right Sector activists. But these former senior officials did not provide any documentary evidence in support of their statements.
A Ukrainian online publication, based on its own investigation, and a reported BBC correspondent statement suggested that in addition to a sniper or snipers filmed by BBC shooting from a Hotel Ukraina room of one of Svoboda deputies, there was a sniper in a different Hotel Ukraina suite, in which another Svoboda deputy lived at that time.
Ivan Bubenchyk stated in his Lviv TV interview in 2014 and then in other Ukrainian media interviews in 2016 that he shot from the Music Conservatory building. He said that he killed two policemen from his AK assault rifle. He said that the Right Sector promised him more ammunition during the Maidan massacre of protesters after he spent his ammunition shooting into the police from the Conservatory building. He became the commander of Zakhid-2 battalion, which was formed by a part of Right Sector activists and the Right-Sector organized Voluntary Ukrainian Corps.
My study found that the far right and oligarchic organizations, such as the Right Sector, Svoboda, the special Maidan company and a faction of the Fatherland party which split away from this party after the Maidan, were involved directly or indirectly in the Maidan massacre of the protesters and the police. But my research was not concerned with identifying specific snipers who massacred the protesters because it was a political science study and not a criminal investigation and analyzed only publicly available evidence. Both the GPU investigation and my study did not find any reliable evidence that government snipers from Omega, SBU Alpha, and Bulat or any “third force” snipers, such as Russian, massacred Maidan protesters.
Did the investigators or any Ukrainian public institution meanwhile think about other perpetrators than Berkut?
Ivan Katchanovski: Recent Kyiv court decisions which I found in the official online database reveal that the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine is investigating leaders or members of such far right organizations as the Right Sector, Sokil (youth affiliate of Svoboda party), Bratstvo, and ‘Warriors of Narnia’ for their suspected involvement in killing and wounding of the police during the Maidan massacre. Theirs’ and other above-mentioned Maidan snipers’ purported involvement in the massacre of the protesters is not being investigated in spite of various evidence suggesting that both protesters and the police were killed and wounded by the same “snipers”. A law adopted by the Parliament gave a blanket amnesty from prosecution and conviction for killings of the police during the ‘Euromaidan’.
Are there new insights about the course of the shooting?
Ivan Katchanovski: Forensic medical reports made public during the Maidan massacre trial indicated that 27 out of 28 killed protesters and the absolute majority of wounded protesters were shot at significant vertical angles, while the Berkut police were located at nearly even-level with the protesters. This suggests snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings because the investigation and my Maidan massacre study did not find evidence that any protester was killed by government snipers from the government-controlled buildings. Forensic medical reports about locations of wounds of the absolute majority of these protesters combined with videos of their positions at the moments of their shooting or shortly before and after also indicate that they were killed from directions of the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled areas.
Similarly, his position in a video seconds before and after his shooting indicates that the sole protester killed with entry and exit wounds at nearly horizontal level was also shot from a Maidan direction. In some cases, the forensic medical reports presented during the trial are not sufficient to make conclusions about directions from which protesters were killed because exact wound locations are not specified or because positions of the protesters in the moments or shortly before or after their killings were not captured in videos.
The forensic ballistic examinations found that at least four protesters were shot with pellets used for hunting, a minimum of one protester was killed from a ‘Vepr’ hunting carbine and at least two protesters were killed by expanding hunting bullets whose caliber did not match calibers of weapons used by the Berkut special police company. The killing of one of these protesters was captured by a French photographer in a video, which was widely publicized in France, Ukraine and other countries as evidence that he was shot by the government forces. His position and locations and steep vertical angle of his wounds in the neck and left shoulder indicate that Viktor Chmilenko was shot by a 30-06 ‘Springfield’ bullet from the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina. A little known version of this video includes both the killing of this protester and a brief segment in which the French photographer zooms to the roof of the Bank Arkada building at the same time as a protester says that there is a sniper there.
The GPU admitted that testimonies of 77 of the wounded protesters about their positions and directions of gunshots, along with videos, photos, forensic reports and conclusions of expert reports, showed that they were shot from other sectors than the Berkut sector. The prosecution charges omitted the wounding of these protesters, or almost half of the 157 protesters wounded on February 20, 2014. These sectors imply Maidan-controlled locations, such as the Hotel Ukraina, since the GPU investigation did not find evidence that SBU Alfa snipers or snipers from other government units massacred protesters.
Many protesters among the 80 protesters with whose wounding the Berkut company was charged, , including a Maidan medic whose shooting was filmed by CNN, publicly stated in investigation documents made public during the Maidan massacre trial, in their media interviews or on social media that they or their groups were shot by “snipers” from such Maidan-controlled locations as the Hotel Ukraina, the Bank Arkada,and Zhovtnevyi Palace. Other cases of the wounded protesters either have not been yet examined at the trial or there is lack of reliable evidence concerning locations of their shooters.
Have there appeared any new evidence in the past year?
Ivan Katchanovski: A lot of evidence, which I summarized before, was revealed for the first time at the Maidan massacre trial. A newly released Maidan massacre video, which was filmed by an unidentified person or persons from the Hotel Ukraina and made public by a Maidan victim’s lawyer during the Maidan massacre trial on February 14, 2017, provides more evidence that protesters were massacred from the Maidan-controlled locations and not by the Berkut special police company. The one hour and ten minute video shows positions of more killed and wounded protesters at the moments of their shootings and their locations relative to Berkut barricade positions. A visible bullet impact in a Berkut barricade truck (6:11) also corroborates my study findings that Maidan “snipers” simultaneously shot at the Berkut police.
The GPU prosecution admitted during the trial that they have video recordings of the Berkut police barricade during the entire massacre. But these videos made from a much closer distance from a National Bank camera are not presented as evidence as a proof of shooting of specific protesters by Berkut during the trial, with one exception. The fact that these crucial videos, which are time-stamped and easily synchronized with the times of shooting of specific protesters and show positions and moments of shooting by Berkut policemen, are omitted by the prosecution as such proof is dog-that-did-not-bark evidence that the Maidan massacre was a false flag operation.
New testimonies by witnesses at the Maidan trial and media and social media reports brought the number of witnesses who pointed out snipers in the Maidan-controlled locations to over 100.
What did the questioning of the former president Viktor Yanukovych bring for the investigations?
Ivan Katchanovski: The questioning of Yanukovych as a witness in the Maidan trial confirmed that he is not officially charged with ordering the massacre. Prosecutors questions to Yanukovych indicated that the investigation does not have any specific information corroborating such an orders. He again denied issuing such an order and stated that he received reports about snipers shooting from the top floors of buildings whose entrances were guarded by the Maidan forces. But Yanukovych did not disclose other specific information that he received during the Maidan massacre. He asked the court to introduce as evidence my Maidan massacre study along with other unnamed documents consisting of three volumes. I was not involved in this trial and in the Yanukovych testimony.
From your point of view: Is there more, the Generalnaja Prokuratura Ukraine should do, to clarify the case?
Ivan Katchanovski: The GPU has both highly qualified investigators and resources to identify organizers of the Maidan massacre and “snipers” who massacred the protesters and the police. The GPU prosecutors stated that they used my study of the Maidan massacre in their investigation. The Maidan massacre is one of the most documented if not the most documented cases of mass killing in history. But it is unlikely that the GPU would do any real investigation of this mass killing under Maidan governments because it is controlled by the Maidan governments which would blocks any such investigations.
What do you think, why isn’t there more public pressure from Western countries on Ukraine to clarify the case?
Ivan Katchanovski: The silence of the Western governments concerning the investigation of the Maidan massacre, which was one of the worst cases of human right violations in contemporary Europe and one of the most politically consequential cases of mass killing, is puzzling. The Western governments might not put any pressure on the Ukrainian government in this case because they very likely know or suspect that this was a false flag operation and because they are more interested in propping up the Maidan-led Ukrainian government in the conflict with Russia than in democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Ukraine.
Today I found this video from Spiegel TV about the investigations of Maidan Massacre. Maybe you know it already. It is from March 2016. The film claims that the murders are enlightened and the perpetrators are identified. It tells about sawed-off Kalashnikov rifles that were found in a lake. They ought to belong to Berkut and to be the proof of their perpetrating. There is no information about shooters in Maidan controlled buildings. Only in the end the speaker tells that also one Maidan-fighter (probably Ivan Bubenchyik) has confessed to shooting at policemen.
Ivan Katchanovski: The Berkut Kalashnikov rifles mysteriously found in a Kyiv park were used by the Ukrainian government as a publicity stunt. Bullet samples from these and other Berkut weapons were all along stored in the police bullet database and available to investigators. Therefore, it made no rational sense to the Berkut to hide them, moreover, in a manner and in Kyiv park area near water which made them easy to recover. The GPU last summer revealed that the leader of one of Maidan organizations organized hiding these weapons.
A forensic ballistic examination, which linked bullets from a part of killed and wounded protesters to specific weapons of the Berkut special company, was publicized in the Ukrainian media and in this Spiegel report as a proof that the Berkut massacred protesters. This examination was done in December 2015 within a few weeks of the end of the investigation. But findings of this examination do not meet standard research criteria of reliability and face validity.
The results of this examination, which was conducted manually, contradicted findings of more than 40 previous forensic ballistic reports conducted both manually by some of the same experts and by using a computer based system. Its results also contradicted findings of forensic medical reports and positions of protesters in videos showing that they were shot from the Maidan-controlled buildings and that it was physically impossible to kill and wound them from the Berkut positions on the ground.
Specifically, they contradicted findings of a forensic ballistic report, which was conducted in January 2015 by a specialized computer-based system IBIS and which determined that not a single bullet extracted from killed protesters matched bullet samples from Berkut Kalashnikovs. This forensic ballistic report, which was conducted for the GPU investigation and made public at the Maidan massacre trial, was suppressed by the government and not reported by the media.
Evidence presented in my study and recent revelations from the Maidan massacre trial show that the Spiegel TV report misrepresented the killing of Volodymyr Chaplynsky as an example of the massacre of the Maidan protesters by the special Berkut company. Both my study and the investigative, on-site experiment concluded that Chaplynsky was shot dead from the Hotel Ukraina when he was filmed running away in a widely publicized video of the massacre.
This GPU investigative experiment was conducted in July 2014 but only made public during the Maidan massacre trial on December 8, 2016. Its conclusion is consistent with his position at the moment when he felt to the ground and with a forensic medical report finding that the entry wound was on the left side of the neck and the exit wound was much lower and on the back of his right shoulder blade from the top to bottom, left to right, and front to back direction (1:23:00).
But the GPU reversed its own earlier conclusion that this protester was not shot from the Berkut barricade and stated that he was killed from the Berkut barricade by an earlier gunshot. However, the video clearly shows that his position at the moment of the first gunshot–the left side of his body facing the Bank Arkada along with the steep wound angle and the locations of the entry and exit wounds point to the Bank Arkada. Chaplynsky had his back towards the Berkut barricade at the moments of both gunshots and could not have been killed by the Berkut from this barricade, as the prosecution charges. One does not need to be a ballistic expert to see this. (31:09)
However, Spiegel and other mainstream Western media did not report these and other revelations from the Maidan massacre trial and various evidence analyzed in my Maidan massacre study.
Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D. is a researcher and lecturer at the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa. His Facebook page is here, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ex-Ukrainian President Yanukovich calls upon EU, U.S. to investigate Maidan crimes, RT.com, Feb 22, 2017.
And related comment by Ivan Katchanovski on his Facebook page, Feb 22, 2016:
Yanukovych still has not revealed evidence to prove his statements about involvement of specific top Ukrainian government officials in the Maidan massacre.
He mentioned such evidence in his interviews, his Ukrainian court testimony, and now in his letter to Donald Trump. In his letter to Merkel, Yanukovych mentioned several of the Maidan-controlled sniper locations which I identified in my study. But he did not reveal specific sources of this information or specific evidence of snipers in these locations (Hotel Ukraina, Horodetsky Street buildings, Bank Arkada, and Zhovtnevyi Palace).