Bankova Prisoners: Anyone will do?
1 December near the president’s administration on Bankova St (Photo: Oleksandr Pilyuhina)
During highly irregular court hearings in Kyiv late in the evening of December 3, 9 men were remanded in custody for two months over alleged involvement in mass disturbances near the president’s administration on Bankova St. on Dec 1. None has yet been formally charged. On Dec 5 the same measure was applied against a second journalist, Andriy Dzyndzya from Road Control.
Despite application of the most severe restraint measure possible, the prosecutor provided no evidence in court for any of the men’s supposed involvement. The only testimony as such was purported to be from Berkut riot police who were not named, and who did not appear in court.
There is however ample video footage of the disturbances on Bankova St, including footage * where we can see some of the detained men who were showing no resistance being brutally beaten by Berkut officers. Relatives managed to identify at least three people: Oleksandr Ostashchenko ((at 0:05-0:41 , 1:18-2:25 and 3:30-4:19); Yury Bolotov ((0:05-0:41; 0:41-0:55; 3:30-4:19; Mykola Lazarevsky (2:40-3:15 and 3:30-4:19). *
There are also eye witness accounts, including from Oleh Martynenko, an OZON peaceful assembly monitor, and videos which show young men, most in masks, apparently hell-bent on confrontation. There is clear evidence that Dmytro Korchynsky was present and his extreme rightwing and pro-Russian organization Bratstvo has often been detected provoking trouble leading to a police crackdown.
All of the above, and damning video footage showing one supposed rabble-rouser (in a purple jacket) first apparently fighting the Berkut officers, then standing together with them, give compelling grounds for suspecting that the confrontation on Bankova St was orchestrated.
Given these suspicions, it is surely of relevance that the first arrests should have been of men bearing no resemblance to the young louts in masks, and that two journalists, counting Road Control journalist Andriy Dzyndzya, are among the detained.. The links below provide brief descriptions of the men and accounts of what happened to them. As can be seen they are people of various ages with an education, professional skills and most holding good jobs. A large number have young families.
In short, they are similar to the hundreds of thousands of others who came out on Sunday Dec. 1 to demonstrate their support for European integration and outrage at the brutal dispersing of the peaceful EuroMaidan protest early in the morning on 30 November.
Through having been on Bankova St at the wrong time, they ended up first savagely beaten by Berkut officers and now could face 5-8 year sentences.
Tens of thousands of other demonstrators could have found themselves in the same situation.
It seems extremely likely that these arrests are aimed at dissuading ordinary Ukrainians from exercising their right to peaceful protest, and journalists from reporting what the authorities prefer people not to know.
* Video Footage
The police brutality towards protesters on Dec 1 was fortunately videoed on a mobile telephone. The video shows Berkut riot police throwing men to the ground and then beating them. Relatives and friends have managed to identify at least three people:
On a video clip taken by Vidro Production, you can see Ostashchenko come out of the courtyard on Bankova St. Approaching the police officers he lifts his hands up, showing that he is not showing resistance - and is beaten (4:49-4:57).
On the Vidro Production video you see Yury Bolotov (5:03-5:07) being brought out from Bankova St; in the background others are being beaten.
The main video which as of Dec6 has been watched by well-over 600 thousand people was made by Volodymr Tyshchenko who pretended to be a hired thug, pulling his hood down and pretending to be speaking to somebody in Russian, while in fact videoing what was going on.
The video can now only be viewed on YouTube after clicking on the box that confirms you have been warned that the film contains scenes considered unacceptable by some YouTube viewers. This is possibly not only the shockingly violent behaviour of the Berkut officers, but their language: “On your knees, on your knees, scum”” “I’ll show you revolution, cunt”.
All three men identified in the video, as well as 6 other men, were remanded in custody for two months on Dec 3. This prompted protest in Ukraine, including pickets outside the Interior Ministry, Prosecutor General’s Office and the SIZO [detention unit] where those men not still in hospital are being held. On Dec 6 Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal in which it states that: “. There are reports of indiscriminate and excessive use of force by riot police towards perpetrators of violence, but also towards peaceful protestors, including the wounded. Video footage from the site shows about a dozen injured protestors being kicked and beaten by riot police despite the fact they are unarmed and lying on the ground.
About each of the detained men