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Lawyer: No evidence of Berkut fighters’ guilt in Maidan shootings

Lawyers in the case of former Ukraine's elite riot police Berkut have offered evidence in court that Maidan supporters shot security agents in Kiev in 2014

KIEV, November 20. /TASS/. Prosecutors have not presented a single evidence of the fault of former Berkut special force members at the maidan shootings, and no expertise confirmed that they used weapons against demonstrators, the lawyer for five former Berkut fighters, Alexander Goroshinsky, said in an interview with TASS.

"There is not a single evidence in the case. As part of the pretrial investigation, more than 50 court ballistics tests were carried out, and 48 of them show that the Berkut employees did not use any weapons at the maidan," he said.

According to the lawyer, two more tests had been made two months before the Berkut case was filed to court. They as well contain no clear data on the use of weapons by fighters over demonstrators, but have a lot of contradicting data and expert findings. So, the court ordered a repeated court ballistics test which is still going on.

"Summing up, I may say that there is no court ballistics data that would point to involvement of our defendants in the shootings. All the rest that prosecutors are referring to are their personal judgements only that are not backed by substantial evidence," Goroshinsky said.

"During the court hearing on Berkut members we disclosed files - videos and photos - showing more than 36 pieces of weapons in the hands of Maidan members, which were used openly," he said.

There is also evidence that the bulk of weapons were used secretly, he said. The videos and photos showed that the shooting was conducted from the building of the Kiev conservatory and the Ukraine hotel in downtown capital both against the law enforcement agents and the demonstrators. The goal was to provoke tensions, the lawyer said.

"If we speak about snipers, absolutely, these were people who carried out the shooting, but I believe these were not professionals but people among the Maidan members," he said.

Goroshinsky said not all evidence has been presented and analyzed by the Kiev court. "We are now questioning the victims, we are yet to study written documents and question the eyewitnesses. We have some 150 eyewitnesses."

"According to the Interior Ministry, from November 21, 2013, to February 20, 2014, more than 1,000 law enforcement officers were injured, 19 were killed," he said. "On February 18-20, 2014, around 539 people suffered injuries, while on February 20, four law enforcers were killed and another 39 were injured by gunfire," the lawyer added. Besides, in Goroshinsky’s words, there was information that those taking part in the anti-government protests had taken Berkut officers hostage and tortured them. One of those Berkut officers suffered serious wounds but later it was he who was arrested and accused of inflicting injuries on protesters. "At the same time, no one is looking into his own injuries," Goroshinsky noted.

Charges against Berkut

The former Berkut employees are charged with "execution of a knowingly illegal order to use weapons against demonstrators, abuse of power, use of weapons against demonstrators, as well as killings and perpetration of a terror attack." The former fighters’ lawyers consider these accusations unsubstantiated.

"It turns out that the prosecutors presume that the policemen who performed their duty to protect the civil order were terrorists," the lawyer noted. "The investigators do not have evidence that a specific Berkut employee caused actual bodily harm to a rally participant, so they incriminate a terror attack without detailing the actions of any Berkut employee."

"Immunity" for Maidan supporters

Four years after the Maidan events, not a single criminal investigation has been completed and no charges have been brought against anyone concerning the injuries that the Berkut officers suffered. According to their lawyer, the reason is that the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) adopted a law preventing any prosecution against the Maidan protesters. "The law prohibits investigators from collecting evidence concerning the injuries suffered by law enforcers, as well as conducting probes and bringing charges, while the already collected evidence should be destroyed," Goroshinsky said. "In this connection, not a single case has been launched so far that would relate to the deaths and injuries of law enforcers that occurred during the Maidan events," he added.

Distracting attention

The lawyer also said that an investigation was underway only into one case, initiated over the deaths of civilians. Berkut police officers involved in the case are treated as civilians, while the case should have been launched under Article 348 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (attempt on the life of a law enforcement official), which stipulates a harsher punishment than Article 115 (premeditated murder), Goroshinsky pointed out.

However, no investigation is being conducted even into the initiated case, moreover, there are no suspects. "For instance, as a representative of Berkut officer Nikolay Simisyuk, who was killed at the Maidan, I have some photos and video footage showing a certain civilian firing a gun, who may be believed to have killed Simisyuk," the lawyer said. "We have presented this evidence to investigators, filed petitions, but there are still no suspects," Goroshinsky said.