EuroMaidan activists and a murky murder investigation in Kherson
One of the threatening messages daubed in red paint on the home of a EuroMaidan activist accusing him of the death of a (wrongly named) police officer
Two Kherson EuroMaidan protesters are in custody, accused of killing one police officer and inflicting knife wounds on two others. This is the latest, and most serious, in a number of cases where the version of events presented by the police differs widely from that of those allegedly involved in them and witnesses.
With the police and the local authorities showing disturbing haste in linking the crime with EuroMaidan and overt pressure being brought to bear on witnesses whose account places such a connection in question, the need for scrutiny seems clear. Unlike just about everything else in this worrying case.
The official police version
Three criminal investigation officers – a police captain (Alexander Kysilevsky); a colonel and senior lieutenant – were carrying out investigative measures aimed at identifying people involved in violent robberies in the Dniprovsk District of Kherson. They were all in plain clothes and none had weapons.
The original version from Jan 28 reported that the three officers had been attacked by several young men and that all had received knife wounds. The report stated that: “The police have detained the persons who carried out the crime. All of the detained are active and radical participants in the protests, the so-called EuroMaidan in Kherson.”
This assertion is made twice in the report, both times clearly implying that there were several assailants. Two officers – 29-year-old Alexander Kysilevsky and a 40-year-old police colonel were seriously injured, and the first subsequently died. A third man – a 28-year-old senior lieutenant received knife wounds to the legs and shoulder, but was soon discharged. If convicted, the two students could face long or life sentences.
The police report was issued on Jan 28, whereas the two young students now in custody were detained shortly after 20.00 on Jan 27. This is supposedly within minutes of the alleged attack.
The discrepancy is disturbing for various reasons. Serious injuries, in one case proving fatal, to three police officers are credible if they were attacked by a group of young men. They are considerably harder to understand when the alleged assailants were two young students of medium height and slight build.
The official version now appears to be that two officers approached the two students to reprimand them over improper behavior. A fight eventuated, ending tragically. The third officer is supposed to have appeared later.
The following focuses on the account given by Savluchenko who had been awaiting his friend, Andriy Nalyvaiko in the hostel where the latter lives.
Nalyvailo and Dmitry Tonhalyuk say that they were set upon by a group of around 10 men as they were returning from EuroMaidan and already fairly close to the hostel. They tried to defend themselves, and then flee, with shots being fired as they tried to escape.
There are witnesses of such a fight involving shots although it is unclear whether they will be willing to testify in court.
Savluchenko has thus far been undeterred by pressure put on him and on his grandmother. He confirms hearing three noises which he assumed at the time were firework explosions, but which were probably the gunshots. He received a call from Nalyvaiko saying that they had just been attacked and shot at. He sped out of the hostel and arrived at the scene together with a security guard. The students said that they had heard one of the men shout :that’s them!’ before they attacked. The assailants then got into a car and disappeared. Together with Savluchenko they called the police. The latter were not eager to take the attack seriously, but the young men insisted. Since it was much too cold on the streets, they returned, with the police officer, to register a report of the attack in Nalyvaiko’s hostel.
This was when other officers burst in and grabbed all three young men. Savluchenko was beaten and threatened with dire consequences if he did not testify against the other two. He became unwell, with dangerously high blood pressure, and an ambulance was called. The doctors insisted that he needed to be hospitalized and since by that time a lawyer had appeared, the police released him.
Nalyvaiko and Tonhalyuk remain in custody, and judging from what Nalyvaiko’s lawyer saw, after finally being allowed to see his client, have been badly treated.
Both young men deny all the charges. Their account of the events, in as much as Savluchenko was involved, is confirmed by the latter’s testimony. It is also substantiated by witnesses who thus far have not been too intimidated to confirm that they saw a mass fight and heard gunfire.
There seems to have been no serious attempt to investigate the young men’s account, despite the fact that the phone call to the police reporting the attack can surely be traced, and there are other reports of a mass fight around 20.00.
Savluchenko reports that a search was carried out of Nalyvaiko’s room and supposedly uncovered three knives, ammunition and a portrait of Hitler. Since the search was commenced immediately after Nalyvaiko’s girlfriend had left after collecting warm things for him and other sundry items, Savluchenko’s skepticism must be shared.
The focus of attention has from the outset been on Nalyvaiko who seemingly has links with rightwing groups. How much so remains unclear and the student has received very positive references from the people running the hostel and others. He also underwent several operations just a few months ago, making the purported attack on even two, let alone three, police officers at very least difficult to understand.
By Jan 31, a number of EuroMaidan activists in Kherson found signs on the walls of their apartment blocks with their names daubed in red paint calling them guilty of “Alexei’s” death. How the “authors”, who got the dead man’s name wrong, could so accurately identify EuroMaidan activists and their addresses would also be worth investigating.
There seems no chance of such investigations being carried out by the Kherson authorities or law enforcement bodies. It is clear from the first police report from Jan 28 that the supposed attack on 3 police officers is to be pinned on “radical” EuroMaidan activists. Any evidence that could refute the official version is being ignored, and at least one crucial witness and his family have come under pressure.
The events in Kherson coincided with protests in other cities including Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhya. In the latter there is very clear evidence of cooperation between the police and “titushki” or hired thugs. In those cities and others there have been reliable reports demonstrating that police officers in plain clothes have taken part in unlawful behavior, such as vandalism, mass fights, and other actions seemingly aimed at provoking trouble. Witnesses have reported, and on occasion managed to film cases where titushki have provoked disturbances and Berkut riot police have arrived and detained EuroMaidan protesters.
It is unfortunately not inconceivable that a mass fight led to unexpected and tragic consequences with the alleged "culprits" now being sought elsewhere.
One man is dead and two young students may well be facing life sentences in a case which elicits very grave concern and which seems aimed at discrediting EuroMaidan protesters. Close scrutiny is desperately needed.