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.

Ukraine to try ex-Berkut officers accused of gunning down Euromaidan activists

Halya Coynash
The men are also accused of destroying and trying to hide the weapons to prevent being identified

Photo from the Office of the Prosecutor General

Photo from the Office of the Prosecutor General

Five more former Berkut officers are to be tried in Ukraine for their believed involvement in the gunning down of unarmed Maidan activists on 20 February 2014.  Serhiy Deviaty; Petro Psariov; Bohdan Shafarenko; Volodymyr Tryhubets and Nazar Zarytsky were members of the ‘Black Company’ special force Berkut unit positioned on Instytutska St and are accused of involvement in the shooting which killed 48 activists and injured 90 others. Their trial, however, will be in absentia as all five fled to Russia soon afterwards, and are likely to have been swiftly granted Russian citizenship.

All are accused of having followed a knowingly criminal order and, together with other enforcement officers committed grave and particularly grave crimes. Since Russia has repeatedly tried to justify its aggression against Ukraine by claiming that there was a ‘coup’ in 2014 which ousted the ‘legitimate’ President Viktor Yanukovych, it is worth noting that all those involved in the bloody events on 18 and 20 February 2014 knew very well that these were crimes.  Attempts were made almost immediately to destroy the weapons which had been used and to burn the identification numbers on them.  In the summer of 2015, fragments of the weapons were found buried on Zhukov Island in Kyiv.  Some of the weapons were later retrieved and identified.

On 25 May 2023, Serhiy Yakovenko, the former deputy head of a police department, was sentenced to ten years for his role in helping the Berkut special force officers involved in the gunning down of protesters on 20 February 2014 to escape.  He was also found guilty of having destroyed their firearms.  That sentence was handed down by Judge Mykola Didyk from the Holosiivsky District Court in Kyiv was also passed in absentia, with an international arrest warrant issued against Yakovenko.

The Prosecutor General’s Office reported on 6 November that the five former Berkut officers are charged over both the use of weapons to kill and injure activists on 20 February 2014 and with the theft, deliberate damage, and concealment of the weapons. 

The men are charged under a formidable number of articles of Ukraine’s Criminal Code, including murder and attempted murder of a very large number of people. 

If convicted (and caught), they could face sentences of life imprisonment.  While the present regime in Russia would not extradite them even if they have not taken Russian citizenship, there would be international arrest warrants issued which other countries would apply. 

The Prosecutor General’s Office reported on 13 October 2023 that the indictment against six other former Berkut officers had been passed to the court.  Although names were not given, Ukrainska Pravda had learned that the six were: Dmytro Isakov; Roman Panchenko; Yevhen Pronoza; Oleh Shabash; Yevhen Taranukha and Volodymyr Trepachov.  They are facing similar charges and are also in hiding in the Russian Federation.

See also details about the only trial to date over the killings where some of the former Berkut officers were present in court:  First sentences in Ukraine over mass murder of Maidan activists

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