Judge who let ringleader of Maidan journalist’s savage murder go free resigns to avoid dismissal
Oleh Linnyk, the judge who passed a suspended sentence on Yuri Krysin for his direct role in the savage beating and murder of journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy during Euromaidan, has ceased to be a judge of the Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv. Linnyk himself resigned on 25 May in advance of a High Council of Justice session on 29 May where a call for his dismissal was scheduled to be heard. Linnyk had previously avoided any disciplinary measures for wrongful rulings passed against Maidan activists, but came to particular notoriety over his role in changing the charges against Krysin and then in passing an extraordinarily light sentence.
On 22 December 2017, Linnyk ignored the prosecutor’s call for a six-year prison sentence and instead passed a four-year suspended sentence with a two-year probation on Yuri Krysin for his undisputed part in the killing of Veremiy. Linnyk found him guilty only of ‘hooliganism’, and cited alleged repentance and two underage children given as mitigating circumstances.
While Krysin did not fire the shot which killed Veremiy, he was the head of the ‘titushki’ or hired thugs who dragged Veremiy from a taxi and began beating him, with the ferocity of the attack clearly seen here.
Krysin had admitted to his part in the events, denying only that he killed the journalist. The court established that on February 17, 2014, Krysin agreed to payment of 20 thousand USD for collecting a gang of titushki to attack Euromaidan activists.
At around 21.00 on 18 February, they used a grenade to stop the taxi in which Veremiy was a passenger, dragged him out of the car and beat him with baseball bats. It is believed that it was one of the other titushki, Dzhalal Aliev (also known as Dima Dagestanets, and now in hiding) who fired the fatal shot when Veremiy tried to flee. The 31-year-old Vesti journalist who was married with a small son died shortly afterwards in hospital.
The public anger was not solely over the two-year suspended sentence, but over how the changes had come to be so diluted and how Krysin had been released from custody.
Krysin was arrested in remanded in custody on March 29, 2014 over the Veremiy killing charges, however was released into house arrest by a Prosecutor General’s Office investigator Yevhen Kotets after Krysin, his wife and lawyer claimed that he was in danger of being killed in SIZO [the remand prison]. The ‘threats’ and elaborate extortion allegations were supposed to form the subject of a criminal investigation, however the lawyer representing Veremiy’s family constantly ran up against a brick wall when he asked for details about the ‘investigation’, and by December that year it transpired that none had been initiated.
The alleged threats were also used as an excuse to hold the court trial over Veremiy’s murder behind closed doors. That in turn made it easier to conceal certain other worrying developments. The most dramatic of these was the quiet disappearance of the murder charges in June 2014, with Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] prosecutor Yevhen Krasnozhon instead initiating new proceedings in which Krysin was charged only with ‘hooliganism’.
At a closed court hearing on Oct 14, 2014 Linnyk released Krysin on only a signed undertaking not to abscond.
Krysin remained at liberty until his next arrest on extortion charges in May 2015. Although he had been under a restraint order on serious criminal charges when he committed the new offences, on March 17, 2016, he was convicted of possession of ammunition and given a suspended sentence.
Despite the fact that the promised criminal investigation into the alleged threats used to justify Krysin’s release from custody had never eventuated, he seems to have been under police protection when he committed his next violent crime in August 2016.
In ordinary cases, such a crime record during the trial would have led to Krysin being taken back into custody, or would at least have been viewed as aggravating circumstances when passing sentence. Instead, Linnyk passed a suspended sentence.
Oleksiy Donsky, prosecutor from the Special Investigations Department investigating Maidan crimes, blamed the drawn-out nature of this trial, which had benefited only Krysin, on Lynnyk. He also spoke of Krysin having people in high places providing him with protection.
An appeal was lodged by the prosecutor against the suspended sentence, though the appeal hearings have been constantly obstructed by Krysin or his lawyers who fail to turn up without providing valid reasons. One such occasion was when Krysin proved to have been admitted to the children’s unit of the Heart Institute. At a later court hearing, prosecutor Donsky said that they had evidence that one of Krysin’s lawyers had arranged for a non-urgent examination on that day.
On 29 March 2018, Krysin was remanded in custody on charges which could carry a 10-year sentence. During the preliminary hearing into the new charges at the Darnytsa District Court in Kyiv on 29 March, the court ordered that the two defendants – Krysin and Serhiy Chemes – both be remanded in custody until 29 May.
The men are facing charges over four episodes. Krysin is accused of abetting and encouraging people to abduct and torture a person on 21-22 January 2014; of hurling explosive devices at Maidan activists’ barricades on 18 February 2014 (several hours before the killing of Veremiy); of obstructing the protests through the use of indiscriminate violence. The fourth charge mainly concerns Chemes who is accused of having, on Krysin’s instructions, forced Veremiy to the ground and held him there until the other titushky ran up.
The court debate in the appeal against the suspended sentence is scheduled for 13 June. Since Krysin appears to still be in custody, it may just happen.
The Krysin trial, and specifically the way in which the charges became so diluted, was given particular attention in the last Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Report on Ukraine. They noted with concern “what appears to be special treatment afforded to the ‘titushky, resulting in denial of justice to victims of their crimes”.