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Fighters of Ukraine's disbanded special police unit ask Crimean authorities for asylum

May 07, 2015, 18:52 UTC+3 SIMFEROPOL

Former special force fighters claim they are persecuted and tortured

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Berkut fighter during rallies in Kiev (archive)

Berkut fighter during rallies in Kiev (archive)


SIMFEROPOL, May 7. /TASS/. Twenty five former members of Ukraine's disbanded Berkut special police force unit from Kharkiv have asked the Crimean authorities to grant them asylum, speaker of the Crimean State Council Vladimir Konstantinov told journalists on Thursday.

"Yesterday we received a letter from Kharkiv from the Berkut fighters who ask us to grant them political asylum," Konstantinov said.

The State Council speaker also cited the letter from the Berkut representatives. "We have made a decision to request you to grant us political asylum. We - 25 people, members of the Berkut unit who are persecuted in Ukraine, those of us who go to interrogations are tortured. It’s impossible for us to live there any longer," the letter says, in particular.

According to Konstantinov, Crimean authorities intended to help the Berkut fighters to get asylum.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry signed an order to disband the country's Berkut special police force in 2014. The Berkut unit comprised some 4000 troops specialised in riot control and rapid-response operations. The proposal to dissolve Berkut, the riot police force relentlessly deployed by the now-ousted government of President Viktor Yanukovych against protesters, was put forward by the nationalist Svoboda party.

The special police unit has been accused of using excessive force to contain the demonstrations sparked in late November 2014 by Yanukovych's decision to back out of a strategic deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia. The protests turned violent, with around 100 people, including more than a dozen police officers, killed at the peak of the unrest, many of them from gunshot wounds.

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