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Court announces sentences for riot police officers accused of killing EuroMaidan protesters

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 18, 2023 2:17 PM 2 min read
Berkut riot police throw stones at anti-government protesters, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 19, 2014. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
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The Sviatoshyn District Court in Kyiv announced the verdict on five Berkut riot police officers on Oct. 18, who were accused of killing protesters in February 2014.

While the Berkut riot police division treated protesters with brutality throughout the revolution, which lasted from November 2013 to February 2014, Berkut officers are believed to have killed 50 people in central Kyiv on Feb. 20 alone.

The uprising sparked after pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the long-awaited Association Agreement with the European Union.

A few hundred people came to Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kyiv's central square, to protest this decision, but were forced out on Nov. 29 by Berkut officers who used excessive violence.

The next day, videos showing Berkut officers beating peaceful protesters led to thousands more people taking to the streets. The police’s attempts to clear the streets ended up causing even a bigger backlash, bringing more and more people to join the uprising.

The former deputy commander of the unit, Oleh Yanishevskyi, was declared guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, and two former Berkut officers were sentenced to 15 years in imprisonment.

However, the three men are now in Russia, having been swapped in 2019 in a prisoner exchange.

EuroMaidan Revolution
The EuroMaidan Revolution is often credited with being the single most consequential event in Ukraine’s modern history. After pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych took power in 2010, the political and business landscape in Ukraine was gradually deteriorating. In November 2013, Yanukovych refuse…

The only two former Berkut officers who were present in the courtroom were acquitted.

They were also part of the 2019 swap, but returned to Ukraine in 2020 because they had been forced to be a part of the swap and they wanted to prove their innocence, they claimed at the time.

After the judge announced the sentences, the prosecutor said he plans to appeal as the "logic is somewhat unclear," according to Suspilne.

The relatives of the victims also said they will appeal. The wife of one man who was killed told Suspilne that "all of them should be sentenced to life imprisonment," not just Yanishevskyi.

The commander's lawyer told Suspline that he will also appeal the decision.

Ukraine completes investigation into killing of EuroMaidan protesters, indicts Yanukovych for murder
The investigation into the killing of EuroMaidan protesters in Kyiv in February 2014 has been completed and former President Viktor Yanukovych has been formally charged with a range of crimes including murder, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced on Oct. 4.

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