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Police & prosecutors accused of protecting Maidan murder suspect from justice

Halya Coynash

A journalist investigation has highlighted disturbing police and prosecutor links which may explain the baffling downgrading in the charges against Yury Krysin, who took part in the killing of journalist Viacheslav Veremiy during the bloodiest days of Euromaidan in February 2014.   Krysin has admitted to taking part in the savage attack on Veremiy, and though he did not fire the shot which killed the journalist, the requalification of the charges from murder to mere ‘hooliganism’ and Krysin’s success in avoiding detention have long caused bemusement. 

It is no less worrying that the article by Maria Tomak from the Media Human Rights Initiative makes it clear that much of the information was previously brought to the attention of the relevant authorities and ignored. 

43-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 Tomak has found both video and witness testimony of various extortion and other criminal activities dating back to 2009. 

Krysin does not deny that he was one of the titushki who viciously attacked Veremiy, a Vesti journalist, with baseball bats after pulling him from a taxi in the centre of Kyiv late at night on Feb 18, 2014.  Although it is believed that Veremiy was shot and killed by Dzhalal Aliev when he tried to escape, the video here demonstrates the potentially fatal savagery of the beating he was subjected to by Krysin and the others.

Aliev is in hiding, like many of those believed to have been responsible for the use and arming of the titushki thugs.  Krysin was remanded in custody on March 29, 2014, however was released into house arrest by a Prosecutor General’s Office investigator Yevhen Kotets after he, 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. 

All of this is of concern since 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.

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.

There was protest over that and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov waxed furious, demanding that proceedings be brought against the judge.  None of this happened and 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 a weapons-related offence and received 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 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. 

As reported earlier, on Dec 23, 2016, judges Ihor Palenyk, Denis Masenko and Oleh Prysyazhnyuk from the Kyiv Court of Appeal agreed to release Krysin from detention, placing him instead under house arrest.  At the time, outraged lawyers representing Maidan victims pointed out that there was evidence that witnesses in Krysin’s prosecution had received text messages warning them to say that they’d seen nothing if questioned. Legitimate grounds for holding a person in custody include well-founded suspicion that the defendant will attempt to put pressure on witnesses. 

Police connections?

In January 2016, Ihor Lutsenko, MP and himself the victim of an abduction and beating during Maidan, asserted that two police officers seeking re-certification in the police force – Vitaly Stryzhak and Yevhen Koval - were known for their links to one of Krysin’s titushki cronies.  He suggested that there were grounds for believing that Stryzhak might have coordinated the abductions of Maidan activists in February 2014.  A number of activists were seized from hospitals and later found, beaten, in various police stations. One of the people abducted – 51-year-old Lviv seismologist – was savagely tortured and left to die in a forest near Kyiv.

Lutsenko is not the only person to suspect these people and a few others he mentions of criminal ties and implication in Maidan.  Civic activists actually passed information about the alleged links to the forrmer head of the National Police Khatia Dekanoidze, but no action was taken. 

Koval is now head of the Department of Internal Security which is supposed to prevent corrupt links with criminal elements and Stryzhak is head of the criminal police, one of the deputy heads of the National Police.

Most incredibly, if one judges from a letter which Tomak received, signed by Yevhen Koval, it seems that the investigation into the activities of Krysin and other titushki is being carried out (or quietly squashed) by the very people whom MP Lutsenko links with the titushki.  

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