Maidan killings suspect missing after being released from custody
Some of the Berkut police snipers who gunned down peaceful protesters on 20 February 2014
Dmytro Sadovnik, one of the men charged with involvement in the mass killing of peaceful protesters in February, has disappeared after his controversial release from custody on Sept 19. He had been due in court on Wednesday Oct 1 for an appeal hearing which could have reinstated his detention. He did not appear, with disturbing discrepancies as to why not. His lawyer is reported as claiming that Sadovnik was seeing a neurosurgeon because his limbs had gone numb, and physically could not get to the court. The prosecutor, however, asserted that he was at the chief investigator on Wednesday, and asked for the hearing to be held without him.
The court refused and re-scheduled the hearing for Friday at noon but Sadovnyk did not appear. Journalists were removed from the courtroom, and a decision taken to set a new hearing for Monday, Oct 6. Late on Friday evening, Anton Herashchenko from the Interior Ministry announced that Sadovnik had not returned home and was now a wanted man. The Pechersky District Court on Oct 4 issued a warrant for his arrest.
It was a judge of that same court who ordered his release from custody on Sept 19. Sadovnik was in change of the Berkut special force unit suspected of the sniper shooting in cold blood of 39 EuroMaidan protesters. Given that the charges against him are so serious, the court had to provide grounds for changing the restraint measure to house arrest. Those given were that he has a wife, three children and a flat in Kyiv, and a good character reference. The application from the prosecutor for Sadovnik and two subordinates to be kept in custody was thus accepted only with respect to the latter two.
The news of his release caused public anger and was also strongly criticized by the Prosecutor General’s Office which appealed against the decision. It was that appeal hearing which Sadovnik chose not to attend.
With Sadovnik now on the run, there are a large number of questions that need answering, and not only why the judge released only one of three men charged with such serious crime. Sadovnik was supposed to have an electronic bracelet on him all the time. This, it appears, had been left in his house. It seems likely that, at very least, the police and prosecutor’s office were aware of Sadovnik’s disappearance long before this was publicly announced. Journalist Serhiy Vysotsky, for example, wrote on his facebook page hours before Herashchenko’s announcement that Sadovnik had fled.
There were clashes in court on Oct 1 between former Berkut officers who had come to support Sadovnik and EuroMaidan activists. The presumption of innocence must apply in all cases, and Sadovnik has not been found guilty by a court. He has, however, absconded under circumstances which arouse deep concern, especially since his is one of the few prosecutions even initiated over numerous crimes during the EuroMaidan protests.