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Ukraine asks Russia for information to investigate riot deaths

April 05, 2014, 7:47 UTC+3 KIEV
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KIEV, April 05, /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has sent Russia a request for information “for prejudicial inquiry in the criminal proceedings conducted in order to establish the true picture of events that took place in Ukraine in January-February 2014 and led to deaths and injuries of people”, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

A coup occurred in Ukraine in February after months of anti-government protests, often violent, which started in November 2013 when the country suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave Ukraine. Amid riots that involved radicals, new people were brought to power in Kiev. Russia does not recognize the new Ukrainian authorities.

On January 22, reports said three demonstrators were killed in downtown Kiev protests. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said they were killed from a distance of 2-3 meters, which was indicated by powder traces on their clothes.

The ministry also said the shots were made from above at an angle. The then opposition blamed law enforcement officers for the killings, but the ministry said the bullets used were not in operational service with the police.

On February 18, violent clashes of protesters with law enforcers claimed human lives. Radical protesters reportedly used firearms. The clashes resumed February 20.

The head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Valentin Nalivaychenko, said Thursday, April 3, that the Alfa special unit, part of the SBU, took part in the crushing of protests in Kiev on February 18.

Speaking at a briefing, Nalivaychenko said Alfa officers were on the roof of Ukraine’s trade unions house building with combat weapons. He said shots were being made from that direction. The SBU chief also said there were SBU units on the roofs of two other buildings, one of which is on Kreshchatik Street and the other on Kostelnaya Street in the center of the capital Kiev.

Earlier, ex-SBU head Alexander Yakimenko said the Right Sector radical far-right Ukrainian movement asked the SBU to use the Alfa unit to clear the building of snipers. But Yakimenko said he was unable to give such an order because the so-called Maidan commandant Andrey Paruby [currently secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council] did not give his consent.

Right Sector activists were reportedly involved in deadly clashes with police in Ukraine’s riots. On March 5, Russia’s Investigative Committee charged Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh with using media to make public calls for terrorist and extremist activity. A Moscow sanctioned his arrest in absentia.

Yakimenko said people who were shooting at Berkut riot police officers and protesters on February 20 were inside the Philharmonic Hall building. “Maidan commandant Paruby was responsible for that building,” he said. “No one was able to enter a building controlled by this or that force without permission from someone from the authorities.”

Maidan is the name for downtown Kiev's Independence Square, which is the symbol of Ukrainian protests. The word “Maidan” is also used as a collective name for anti-government protests in Ukraine.

“Snipers and others were shooting from automatic weapons from the Philharmonic Hall building’s roof. They supported a military attack on Interior Ministry officers,” he said.

“Many eyewitnesses saw some 20 people leave that building,” Yakimenko said, adding that the people were clad in special uniforms and had bags used to carry arms, including sniper rifles, as well as modernized Kalashnikov assault rifles with optic sights. Not only law enforcers but “representatives of Maidan, Right Sector, Svoboda [nationalist party], Batkivshchina, Udar [parties] saw that”, he said.

A recently intercepted phone conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton gave grounds to assume snipers who had shot at protesters and police in Kiev during recent riots in February could have been hired by radical Ukrainian protest leaders.

In an interview with the Russian television channel NTV and the US news agency The Associated Press on April 2, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he “never gave any orders to shoot”. In his words, people inside buildings controlled then by the opposition opened fire on Maidan in February.

The Ukrainian crisis deteriorated when the Republic of Crimea, where most residents are Russians, signed a reunification deal with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

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