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Dramatic twist in trial of ex-Berkut officer over savage torture of Maidan activists

26.12.2023   
Halya Coynash
There was outrage back in 2019 when Andriy Khandrykin was acquitted, however it still took four years for the appeal court to reach a very different decision

Andriy Khandrykin Photo Hromadske

Andriy Khandrykin Photo Hromadske

Andriy Khandrykin, a former Berkut officer and, seemingly, an acting police officer, has been sentenced to six years after Kyiv’s Court of Appeal overturned an earlier acquittal over the torture of two Euromaidan activists.  That acquittal back in August 2019 had aroused outrage given the amount of evidence incriminating Khandrykin, and his initial testimony.

Khandrykin should have been on trial with two other former officers from the Kharkiv Berkut special forces, Vladyslav Masteha and Artem Voilokhov.  The latter, however, fled to Russia back in 2017 and the charges against them were made into separate proceedings. 

The charges were over the beating and torture on 20 January 2014 of two Euromaidan activists– Mykhailo Nyskohuz, who was just 17 at the time, and Vladyslav Tsypitsky near the Dynamo Station on Hrushevsky St.  Both were savagely beaten and hurled to the ground, with 17-year-old Mykhailo undressed despite a temperature of minus 12.  The young lad also received a knife injury to the thigh. 

Both young men were later accused of ‘organizing mass riots’, with Tsipytsky remanded in custody and Nyskohuz placed under house arrest.

Khandrykin (in the absence of the other two former Berkut officers) was charged with torturing Maidan activists under Article 127 § 2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of from 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment.  The prosecution and the lawyers representing the two victims were convinced that there was ample evidence to convict Khandrykin.  This included not only video footage and witness testimony, but his acknowledgement of his role in the men’s detention. 

Despite this, on 30 August 2019, judge Oksana Birsa from the Dniprovsky District Court in Kyiv acquitted Khandrykin, and rejected the civil claims for compensation lodged by the two victims.

It is that acquittal that was overturned on 21 December 2023 by judge Vira Kovalska from the Kyiv Court of Appeal.  However, she rejected the civil suits brought by the two victims against the Kharkiv Regional Police Department and the Kharkiv Regional Department of the State Treasury.  The conviction and 6-year sentence can be appealed, through cassation proceedings, with the Supreme Court.

It is ten years since the Euromaidan protests, now known as the Revolution of Dignity.  Despite assurances that those guilty of crimes against activists would be held to account, there have been relatively few convictions.  A large number of Berkut officers fled to Russia where they were swiftly granted Russian citizenship.  Some Maidan suspects have since been seen helping the Russian regime crush peaceful protests in Moscow.  In occupied Crimea, former Berkut officers took part in the political persecution of at least two Ukrainian political prisoners – Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets.   

There has been some movement over recent months with two ex-Berkut officers sentenced on 2 November 2023 to three years’ imprisonment.  Vadym Shepel and Dmytro Dereviankin were convicted on three charges over the savage dispersal of young Maidan activists in the early morning of 30 November 2013.  They were only sentenced, however, on one charge, as the other two were time-barred.  This is an urgent problem, as the time-frame for trying people on other charges is about to expire.

No charges over the killing of unarmed activists can be time-barred, however progress in such cases has been extremely chequered. 

See:

First sentences in Ukraine over mass murder of Maidan activists

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

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