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23.12.2017 | Halya Coynash

Suspended sentence for the savage murder of Maidan journalist Viacheslav Veremiy

Viacheslav Veremiy (left), Yury Krysin
   

The first and only trial so far over the fatal attack on journalist Viacheslav Veremiy during Euromaidan has ended in a four-year suspended sentence with a two-year probation period passed on Yury Krysin for his undisputed part in the killing.  Judge Oleh Linnyk from the Shevchenkivsk Court in Kyiv, ignored the prosecutor’s call for a six-year prison sentence, and found him guilty only of ‘hooliganism’, with his alleged repentance and two underage children given as mitigating circumstances.

Everything about this prosecution, as well as others involving Krysin, has aroused concern and been the subject of several journalist investigations.  The prosecution has already said that they will appeal against the sentence. 

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.

In one of the many controversial moves during this trial, the original murder charge against Krysin was changed to merely ‘hooliganism’ (Article 296 § 4 of the Criminal Code), and it was this that he was convicted of on December 22, 2017.

The announcement of this very light sentence was met with crimes of ‘shame!” from those present.  Veremiy’s widow also pointed out that the sentence contained incorrect information.  It claimed, for example, that Krysin does not have a criminal record which is entirely untrue.  He has been twice convicted of hooliganism and causing bodily injury and judge Linnyk also saw fit to ignore his current criminal record for illegal possession of ammunition.  Although Krysin was also convicted of manslaughter back in 2012, this is apparently not formally regarded as a criminal record, as he was punished for it.

The killing of Viacheslav Veremiy was one of the first cases to appear fully solved, yet the trial, held behind closed doors, took around three years.  In a recent interview, prosecutor Oleksiy Donsky said that he believed the lengthy trial period should be attributed to judge Linnyk, and that it was doubtless in the interests of the accused.  Donsky is careful in giving an opinion as to why the judge might drag out the case, but notes that this is common in many cases involving criminal charges against Krysin. 

This trial has finally ended in a sentence which Krysin was clearly expecting and many civic activists feared.  Krysin has a long track record of escaping punishment which has led journalists to delve into the likely reasons, and to come up with disturbing answers. 

44-year-old Krysin (‘Shkaf’) is originally from the Donetsk oblast and is believed to have been part of a criminal gang with links to Yury Ivanyushchenko, a former close associate of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.  Ivanyushchenko is suspected of playing a major role in providing the gangs of titushki or hired thugs used against Maidan activists.  Krysin had moved to Kyiv many years before Maidan, and Maria Tomak from the Media Human Rights Initiative has found both video and witness testimony of various extortion and other criminal activities dating back to 2009. 

Krysin was 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.   

Tomak cites another investigation by the well-known Skhemy project which points to suspicious amounts of property owned by Kotets who was also involved in a criminal investigation against Ivanyushchenko. 

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.

As mentioned, in June 2014, Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] prosecutor Yevhen Krasnozhon terminated the investigation under murder charges and initiated new proceedings in which Krysin is charged only with ‘hooliganism’.  Worth noting that three titushki remain in custody on attempted murder charges over another incident which did not result in a fatality.

In August that year, Krasnozhon supported Krysin’s lawyer’s application to the court to have his house arrest withdrawn. This was supposedly because Krysin had admitted guilt, had good character references and a pregnant wife and son.  At a closed court hearing on Oct 14, 2014 judge Oleh Linnyk allowed the application and released Krysin on only a signed undertaking not to abscond.

Despite public outrage, Krysin remained at liberty until his next arrest on extortion charges in May 2015.  Despite having 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. 

Tomak notes that, although investigator Kotets did not see fit to initiate criminal proceedings over the threats which served as pretext for releasing Krysin from custody on the charges linked with Veremiy’s murder, he did, as Krysin’s lawyer asked, organize police protection.  It seems likely he was under such police guard when he committed the next crimes.

He was still easily within the probation period of this light suspended sentence when he was arrested again in August 2016 and remanded in custody on suspicion of heading a criminal gang making armed attempts to take over Narodna petrol stations. A combat grenade was found in his car, as well as operational material gathered about certain individuals which could only have come from the police. 

Tomak also pointed to likely police connections, and indicated that the authorities had been presented with such information .

In the above-mentioned interview prosecutor  Donsky said he believes that Krysin has people in high places providing him with protection.  His account of the 2010 manslaughter conviction contains some very important differences.  Krysin was originally accused of murder, but then the charge was changed to manslaughter through carelessness.  He got a suspended sentence here also, and there is another highly interesting detail.  The investigator in that case later became Krysin’s lawyer.

Now, in most-Maidan Ukraine, the charges against a man who organized thugs to beat up journalists and peaceful activists, have also ended up suspiciously diluted, with Krysin having virtually never been held in custody and now walking free.

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