war crimes in Ukraine

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Police & judges accused of impeding prosecution of crimes against Euromaidan activists

Halya Coynash
On the same day that the Head of the special department investigating Maidan crimes spoke of constant obstruction from current police officers, former Berkut officers and judges, a court has allowed Anatoly Logvinenko, an ex-Berkut officer accused of grave crimes, to remove his electronic bracelet

A Pechersky District Court judge has ruled that former Berkut officer Anatoly Logvinenko, who is accused of serious crimes against Maidan activists, should have his electronic bracelet removed, with this ruling following another court’s decision to waive travel restrictions. 

The court ruling coincides with criticism from the head of the special department investigating Maidan crimes of the obstacles put in their way.  Serhiy Horbatyuk points out that his department is investigating crimes committed during Euromaidan, including persecution of activists by judges and law enforcement officers.  They are, however, constantly running up against obstruction from current police officers, former Berkut officers and their representatives, and even from judges. 

Covert obstruction, such as the dragging out of consideration of applications for investigative activities or unwarranted rejections of such applications sometimes turns into open resistance – by unfreezing the accounts of former high-ranking officials and unlawfully releasing people suspected of particularly grave crimes from custody”.

Horbatyuk directly accuses current police officers of not only failing to take active steps to solve the crimes, but also obstructing the investigation. They make up stories, for example, about supposed psychological pressure exerted on them by the investigators, and use this as an excuse to demand their withdrawal.  Judges, in turn, ignore the lack of any grounds, and allow such applications.

On Oct 13, for example, a judge from the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv allowed an application from ex-Berkut officers with witness status in a case over unlawful persecution of Maidan activists.  The former Berkut officers claimed that the withdrawal was needed “to exclude the likelihood that the assumption would arise among parties to the prosecution that the investigator had an interest in the result of the criminal investigation”.  No objective information was provided to justify this reason which is not envisaged by the Criminal Procedure Code, yet the application was allowed.  This was despite the absence of the investigator himself, constituting another infringement of the same Criminal Procedure Code. 

There has been no statement from the Department regarding the removal of restrictions on Logvinenko, but Maidan activists and lawyers representing the families of victims have expressed anger and frustration. 

On Friday, Oct 16, Judge Larissa Tsokol from the Pechersky District Court allowed the removal of Logvinenko’s electronic bracelet, with the official reason being a back problem and head and skull injury.   Her ruling is not subject to appeal. 

Logvinenko was the commander of the No. 2 Berkut regiment and is suspected of having been in charge of the Berkut officers who carried out an ambush and then brutal attack on Automaidan activists on Jan 23, 2014. 

As reported, the ambush was outside a clinic in Kyiv where the AutoMaidan activists were keeping guard over protesters receiving treatment.  There were serious grounds for such protection with numerous cases where activists had been abducted from hospitals.  Most were beaten up and then found in various police stations, however the savagely beaten and tortured body of Yury Verbytsky, a Lviv seismologist, was found in a forest on Jan 23, two days after his abduction.

Berkut officers, probably flanked by titushki, or paid thugs, appeared at around 4 a.m. at Clinic No. 17.  They smashed up the cars and detained all those inside them.  According to one young man who managed to escape, they threatened to take them away and beat them.  At the time HromadskeTV reported that this looked like a deliberate ambush with information having been put out on the Internet saying that help was needed.  The aim was clearly to gather as many AutoMaidan activists in one place as possible and set upon them.  by men in uniform and titushki. 

Singer and EuroMaidan activist Ruslana called the ambush “brazen and unconcealed terror on the streets of Kyiv”, and said that the activists had called the Berkut officers unprecedentedly aggressive. 

Kateryna Butko was in the passenger seat of one of the cars that night.  She explains that the ambush was organized by the Kyiv Berkut who beat them, piled them into vans and took them to Mariiynsky Park.  She managed to escape, however the men were first forced – in freezing temperatures – to kneel for an hour and a half in the snow, and were then taken away to police stations.  The following evening obliging judges remanded them in custody for 2 months.

The ex-commanders of two regiments are facing charges over the ambush.  Mykhailo Dobrovolsky is also charged with other offences and is in custody.  Logvinenko, on the other hand, is supposed to now be employed as chief specialist in the department of internal security and fighting corruption of the State Property Fund of Ukraine.  This and his apparent need to go on business trips are the grounds cited for a ruling from the same Pechersky Court under Judge Svitlana Babenko on Sept 30 waiving the requirement that Logvinenko get permission from the investigator to leave Kyiv.

Oleksandr Yanushevy, the Department’s prosecutor in the cases against both Logvinenko and Dobrovolsky, explained to Euromaidan SOS that they have not been able to obtain any definite information about Logvinenko’s workplace.  He says that Logvinenko was previously under house arrest with this having a maximum period of 6 months.  They were therefore forced to change his restraint measure to a personal commitment which included the wearing of an electronic bracelet, and informing of any change in work or residential address. 

Although Logvinenko is supposed to hand in his passport,  Yanushevych acknowledges that following the two Pechersky Court rulings, they will be unable to monitor his movements or guarantee that he won’t abscond.

Yanushevych was not prepared to say whether Logvinenko had tried to put pressure on potential witnesses and victims, but says there are grounds to believe that such pressure could be applied.  “He’s a former Berkut commander, he had influence on them then.  We assume that he has good relations with the current management which also makes it possible to exert influence since 90% of Berkut officers are currently serving”.

Although the investigative team is apparently hoping to bring charges against members of the regiments involved in the ambush, that is harder since the men’s faces were obscured. 

Dmytro Sadovnyk and Tavakkul Ragimov were both released from custody and absconded.  Logvinenko is the third person who has been left at liberty despite the gravity of the charges against them.  The unquestionable achievements of the Special Investigations Department are rendered meaningless when confronted by such overt sabotage and stymieing of a crucial investigation.   

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