Kiev riot police detained over protest shootings
KIEV, April 3 (RAPSI) – The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office on Thursday reported that 12 members of the Berkut riot police battalion have been detained on suspicion of their roles in the live-ammo shootings that occurred during the Kiev protests in February.
Ousted president Viktor Yanukovich said earlier during a press conference in Russia that the law enforcement authorities did not use live ammunition against the protesters, and that he did not issue any orders to do so. According to Yanukovich, all of the shootings came from buildings occupied by protesting militants.
In the aftermath of the regime change, many Berkut servicemen fled to the pro-Russian Crimean peninsula, which officially joined Russia following a March 16 referendum.
At a press conference in March, Berkut major Aleksandr Vasyukov said that the accusation that police snipers were operating during the protests was a lie. According to the major, Berkut policemen did not take their service firearms with them to Kiev, and the arsenal remained on a Berkut base in Simferopol.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier stated that Moscow had data that the snipers present at the protest were controlled by the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement.
Earlier, a leaked phone call between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, implied that the snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev may have been linked to “somebody from the new coalition.”
The phone call took place after Paet visited Kiev on February 25, following intense street battles between police and protesters that killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.
On February 22, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada impeached Viktor Yanukovich and amended the constitution. Presidential authority was assigned to parliament speaker Olexandr Turchiynov and a presidential election was scheduled for May 25.
Russia has denounced the events in Ukraine as an armed coup. President Vladimir Putin said during a news conference in March that Yanukovich remains Ukraine’s legitimate president.