war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Ministry of internal affairs of Ukraine and Human Rights



At the beginning of 2014, by exercising powers of the executive authority, the internal affairs agencies of Ukraine, in obedience to the political will of the country’s leaders, performed the function of large-scale repressions towards the Ukrainian citizens, which was practically forgotten since the times of the USSR.

Thus, chiefs of the IAA (Internal Affairs Agencies) units were issuing unlawful orders for arrests of the Euromaidan supporters, organized the militia’s groundless and unlawful use of physical force and impact munitions towards the protesters. Nevertheless, criminal proceedings, which have become publicly known, came to nothing more than a few isolated cases regarding three Berkut officers and two militia chiefs in Cherkasy and Zaporizhzhia regions.[2] It was only in November, 2014, that the Public Prosecution Office of the City of Kyiv and Kyiv Region took judicial proceedings in 10 cases on illegal acts of the SAI (State Automobile Inspectorate) officers, who prevented Automaidan activists from rally to Mezhyhirya on 29.12.2013.

After February, 2014, new leaders at the MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) partially managed to resume the militia’s focus on protection of rights and freedoms of our citizens. Although the total number of offences committed by law enforcement officers after the Euromaidan has significantly reduced, the facts of cruel treatment still continue to take place. Thus, on August 14 the militia officers were detaining citizen A. Tumytskyi for over seven hours within the premises of Obolonskyi District Department of Internal Affairs of the City of Kyiv, trying to conceal this fact from his lawyer. Then, they let the detainee go with no explanations or excuses whatsoever.[3]

On June 29, officers of Kosiv District Department in Ivano-Frankivsk region, having stopped a car, applied disproportionate force and impact munitions to passenger D. Boichuk, due to which the latter suffered from brain concussion and renal hematomas.[4]

As evidenced by inspections materials, the practice of illegal arrests has not changed in a number of regions. Thus, in November, 2014, the Public Prosecution Office of Kharkiv Region detected the cases of concealing from records the facts of arrests of at least 50 citizens with no relevant minutes executed with regards thereto. Such facts were detected in one third of Kharkiv militia offices pursuant to results of inspection of five city district departments and four districts of the region (Balakliya, Blyzniuky, Pervomaisk, Lozova districts). The Public Prosecution Office also established numerous facts when citizens were arrested for commitment of acts, for which the arrest as an impact measure may not be applied in accordance with the effective legislation. The detected facts constituted grounds for disciplinary punishment of 11 employees of the IAA of various levels.[5]

In December, 2014, employees of the Ombudsman Office established numerous violations of citizens’ rights as practiced by IAA units in the city of Bila Tserkva (Kyiv region). Namely, the following facts were established:

— unlawful arrests with no resolution of the investigating judge;

— concealing facts of the militia officers’ applying physical force and impact munitions to citizens;

— failure on the part of the management of temporary detention facility of the public prosecution office to inform about facts of detecting bodily injuries on the detainees;

— manipulations with the actual time of bringing a person to the city department of internal affairs or with circumstances of the arrest, thereby facilitating violation of the statutory procedural time limits[6].

Actions of the militia personnel during public order maintenance still raise much concern. Although the MIA has taken measures on renovation of the patrol unit, the concerts of Ani Lorak in Odesa (August) and Kyiv (November) have demonstrated that the militia is not ready yet to adequately and legally react to the provocative acts of protesters.[7]

Non-professional and biased actions of the Odesa militia on 02.05.2014 during football fans’ attack by armed provocateurs also resulted in dramatic consequences leading to mass skirmishes, death of 48 persons and injuries of yet over 125 participants of the event.[8] None the less resonant appeared to be actions of law enforcement officers in Kharkiv on 22.06.2014 during the Euromaidan People’s Viche (assembly), when Hryfon special police officers made a few attempts to disperse the spontaneous peaceful assembly and inflicted bodily injuries of different severity levels to the assembly participants.[9] Against the background of the mentioned events, actions of the militia officers on public order maintenance during the dismantlement of tents on the Maidan (Independence Square) on August 8 appear to be an isolated instance of coordinated actions aimed at prevention of conflicts and avoidance of force-applying scenario.[10]

Instances of criminal offences committed by law enforcement officers still continue to take place. Thus, in Kyiv region, a former district militia inspector was given a 1.5 year sentence under article 125, part 2, and article 126, part 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine for beating a resident of Borodianka village while off-duty in a night club and inflicting the latter with slight bodily injuries.[11]

On the night of June 28/29, 2014, in one of villages in Ternopil region three militia officers forced an underage girl into a Skoda Octavia car marked as the Road Patrol Service (RPS) vehicle. Having driven off not far from the village, the men pulled her out of the car and raped close to the forest strip. The Public Prosecution Office of Ternopil Region initiated criminal proceedings under article 152, part 3 of the CC of Ukraine against the three officers of one of the militia district departments.[12]

In November 2014, in Poltava region a bill of indictment was filed to the court against 2 militia officers (national security service, criminal investigation department) for plunder and extortion in the amount of USD 120,000.00 as well as private property arson.[13]

The issue of corruption as a major factor of human rights violation in activities of the IAA is still urgent even in the stress conditions of the country’s interior life. SAI units are the first to come into focus of the society due to numerous evidences of the existing corruption schemes. For instance, mass media made available open appeals of SAI officers in the city of Uman regarding the system of maletolts established by the department management.[14] Dorozhnyi Kontrol (Road Control) activists informed of illegal tariffs being charged to obtain senior positions at the SAI on the regional level. Results of their investigation show that such tariffs in Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Mykolayiv and Poltava regions range between UAH 500 and 800 thousand. Also, according to this very scheme, militia officers will need to pay UAH 8–10 thousand to be appointed as a regular SAI inspector. Every inspector thus appointed has to deliver UAH 300–500 after each duty on the route.[15]

Plundering of budgetary funds is openly reported by both — officers of regional divisions and leaders of the MIA of Ukraine. For example, in October 2014 militia officers of Mariupol filed an official request with the authorities to open an investigation in response to the fact of embezzlement of nearly UAH 100 thousand by the Chief of Zhovtnevyi District Department, and in December Minister of the MIA informed about exposure in 17 regional centres of facts of illegal privatisation of official housings for the amount of UAH 40 million.[16] High level of corruption incidence in the IAA caused picketing the building of the Cabinet of Ministers in December 2014 by members of the militia trade union, which gathered over 1,000 representatives from different regions.[17]

One of the main challenges in the area of observance of human rights and freedoms consists in participation of the MIA of Ukraine in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). On the one hand, for the first time in a long period, the MIA leaders faced the problem where they have to ensure the legality of actions of its personnel subject to long-lasting circumstances of an armed conflict. On the other hand, formation of volunteer battalions of riot police patrol service as well as volunteer battalions of operational designation of the National Guard of the MIA require large-scale enforcement of rights of soldiers of these units associated with the existing problems on logistic support of the MIA.

The first portion of the said problems became quite notable after disclosure in July 2014 of facts of large-scale nonfulfillment of duties and betrayal of national interests on part of the Donetsk militia officers. According to results of internal inspections, the MIA at first fired 585 militia officers noting that, as preliminary estimated, only 20–25% of militia officers in the liberated settlements may proceed with their duty since the MIA has no claims against them. Others are for good reason suspected in assisting separatists and oath-breaking.[18] A little later, in October, 15 thousand militia officers of Donetsk and Luhansk regions were made to leave the rows of MIA because of their oath-breaking and staying in the terrorists-controlled territories in disregard of the orders issued.[19]

At the same time, there has been the problem of laws observation among the ATO soldiers, when the Minister of MIA was forced to disband the special designation battalion of Shakhtarsk after 50 out of 700 of its soldiers were accused of looting.[20] During 2014 the society also learnt about the evidences of citizens with respect to violations of their rights by fighters of volunteer battalions relating to unlawful arrests, cruel treatment, extortion and robberies.[21] Monitoring visits by human rights organizations also confirm soldiers of certain battalions being involved in kidnapping and involuntary confinement of people for ransom.

In Kyiv, personnel of the Azov battalion have been involved in several cases of unlawful actions caused by a conflict between the political forces and commercial structures.[22]

It must be admitted that there is a positive aspect in that the MIA, regardless of all the mentioned difficulties, far back in April 2014 declared the course of fundamental change of the institution activities by establishing the Expert Board for Reformation and supporting the pilot experiment of militia reformation in Lviv region. Within 7 working groups, the experiment united 90 specialists in the sphere of education and state administration, IAA employees, activists of public organizations and non-governmental experts. Despite its incomplete results, the experiment initiated the change of assessment criteria of the IAA activities, implementation of community policing and procedures for selection of senior management using the polygraph. In October, in the city of Khmelnytskyi the next experiment was launched aimed at consolidation of the militia patrol service and SAI to strengthen their servicing capacity.

On October 22, 2014, a rather extraordinary event took place: for the first time in the last 18 years the government approved the package of proposals on the MIA reformation. But what was more notable in this situation is the fact of approving the Strategy for Development of the Internal Affairs Agencies elaborated by the human rights advocates as the major program document. However, it took almost a month for citizens to see this document. This was caused by hair-trigger reaction of the old regime militia lobby multiplied by conservatism of a bureaucratic governmental mechanism.[23]

The said Strategy focused on the main underlying principles of modern European police studies — depoliticization, rule of law, decentralization, demilitarization, transparent operation and accountability to the society.

The Strategy sets forth a series of conceptually new ideas. First of all, this is formation of the MIA as a civil and open home office coordinating activities of its services enjoying the status of central executive bodies. This means that the services are seen independent to the extent, when they may dispose of their own budget and conduct their own personnel policy. And the Minister as a civilian shall not be entitled to perform direct management of any of these services and shall not interfere with their activities, except for emergencies. The national police in this model shall have neither leading nor predominant position. Independence of law enforcement units also provides for a whole new structure — municipal police as well as introduction of several alternative models thereof depending on the region’s specific features.

Civil nature of the ministry will be accompanied by renunciation of military attributes, a system of pseudo-military ranks as, for example, Colonel-General of the Militia, and removal of all military units from the MIA. The National Guard and the Border Guard Service will be no exceptions; they will be deprived of their military status too, and will be transformed into paramilitary structures.

Also, Ukrainians might be interested in innovations of the Strategy directly guaranteeing the inviolability of their rights when communicating with the police as well as the efficient control over the legality of actions by the MIA personnel. From the point of view of the Strategy, it is considered to be completely natural that the society must be at all times engaged in investigations, for example, in investigations of cruel treatment at the police offices. None the less natural is that damages inflicted by non-professional and illegal actions of law enforcement officers must be reimbursed not only by the persons at fault but also at the cost of the budget of that body where offenders in a uniform served their duty. The idea of public control equalling to the state control is the cross-cutting theme of the Strategy. It is implemented everywhere: in the society’s membership in certification commissions for selection to the MIA senior positions, in the citizens’ presence at examinations of candidates for the position, in a separate direction of the MIA departmental policy called community policing (activities focused on needs of the communities), and in the assessment mechanism of the MIA activities on the whole.

The rights of the MIA personnel have not been left on the side-lines too: the Strategy stipulates the system of changes in social and financial support of law enforcement officers as well as the transparency of personnel procedures, gender equality in the course of professional career, closing the door on manipulating conduct of the subordinates on part of dishonest seniors.

However, most of public attention has been drawn to the idea of cardinal restructuring of the MIA and future police, since this provides for “disappearance” of a whole range of services — SAI, transit and veterinary police, units for fighting organized and economic crime, illegal drug trafficking, security services. It is expected that most functions and personnel of the said services will be assigned to the jurisdiction of other ministries. This will enable to optimize the police structure and gradually arrange for 70% of policemen to fall within the two most important services — patrol service and service of district officers.

The process of reform implementation, indeed, remains highly debatable but not only and not so much due to the lack of financing. The core for all the problematic issues might be whether the country and its society are ready to welcome real reforms, since it is clear that the MIA reform can be effective only as part of changes in the whole sphere of criminal justice. Thus, the MIA’s efforts to set up the new operation system appear to be rather difficult nowadays. However, as compared to those tasks arising when building a new system of the MIA relations with public prosecution offices and judicial system, the problems of inner functioning seem to be quite an everyday matter.


1. To the Presidential Administration and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, to ensure coordination of reformation processes in the sphere of criminal justice with consideration of the specific features and competence of judicial bodies, public prosecution offices and internal affairs agencies.

2. To the Ukrainian Parliament, to commence the development of legislative initiatives regarding the optimal model of the MIA military units engagement in the circumstances of an armed conflict, emergencies, ATO, with simultaneous development of social protection system for the MIA personnel.

3. To the Ukrainian Government, to consider the possibility of legislative recognition of the system of public monitoring of the IAA activities with a wider involvement of the society and non-governmental organizations in the work of advisory and consulting bodies of the MIA, expert and interim working groups, without limitation to the existing forms.

4. To the Ukrainian Government, to improve the mechanism of government statistics in order to establish separate statistical accounting of crimes with elements of tortures, stipulated in article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to periodically publish such statistical data on a mandatory basis.

5. To the Ukrainian Government, to regulate the legal framework and mechanisms for rendering administrative services by departments of the MIA of Ukraine, providing for their transparency, protection against monopoly or corruption risks, and a well-defined system of quality standards for services and control over their provision.

6. To the MIA of Ukraine, to arrange the process of transparent implementation of reformation principles with engagement of all the parties concerned — national institutions of civil society, international expert environment, legislative branch.

7. To the MIA of Ukraine, in statutory terms to improve the procedure of internal investigations at the citizens’ complaints in order to guarantee the fullest protection of right of the aggrieved for fair and efficient consideration. At the same time, the following must be ensured:

— the claimant’s rightful participation in the internal investigation at his/her request (examination of the investigation files and their assessment, attending interrogations of those involved in the investigation, the possibility of providing additional materials at any stage of the investigation etc.);

— the claimant’s right to engage a lawyer or other specialist in the sphere of law as well as human rights advocates or independent experts into the internal investigation;

— the possibility to suspend an IAA employee from work for the time of an internal investigation (to allow for credibility of the investigation);

— implementation of measures on protection of the claimant and other persons involved in the internal investigation against pressure on part of the militia officers.

[1] Prepared by O. Martynenko, Centre of Law Enforcement Activities Research.

[2] Trial of former Berkut officers suspected of the Maidan shootings postponed //; Ex-Chief of Cherkasy regional militia department declared as a suspect //; Deputy Chief of Militia District Department in Zaporizhzhia will be brought to court for beating protesters in February // schih-v-fevrale-97234.html

[3] Employees of Oblonskyi District Department of Internal Affairs of the City of Kyiv kidnapped a man and by applying physical force tried to make him give false confessions //

[4] Ivano-Frankivsk militia officers mutilated an Afghan War veteran. MIA claims they acted in compliance with the law //

[5] 19 militia officers and border guards held liable for violation of rights of administrative detainees //

[6] Violations of human rights and freedoms detected in the activities of law enforcement bodies of Kyiv region //


[8] Death toll rose to 48 after riots in Odesa //

[9] Injured and arrested reported during clashes between the Euromaidan and militia in Kharkiv//

[10] A. Fedchenko. Night on the Maidan: expecting an assault and a “surprise” from law enforcement officers //


[11] Ex-militia officer condemned to 1.5 year sentence for beating a man in Kyiv region //

[12] In Ternopil region three militia officers raped a 15-year-old girl //

[13] In Poltava region 2 militia officers are brought to trial for plunder, arson and extortion //

[14] Uman SAI employees ask to fire a briber (appeal) //

[15] Position of Kyiv SAI Chief sold for UAH 800 thousand //

[16] Mariupol militia officers complain — Chief takes away their salaries //;

Former Chief of Militia Department of Kyiv Region bought a 3.2 million apartment //

[17] Zaporizhzhia militia veterans saw by the MIA walls “disgrace in the best traditions of Yanukovych” //

[18] 585 militia officers of Donetsk region fired //;

MIA accuses over half of the Donbas militia personnel of betrayal //

[19] MIA fired 15 thousand traitors in Donbas //

[20] Avakov disbanded Shakhtarsk battalion for looting //

[21] Video goes online showing the detention and beating by Dnipro battalion of separatists’ accomplice //

[22] MIA’s Azov: new extremists? //

[23] MIA of the European standard: strategy of reformative changes //

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