Sentences over mass murder of Maidan activists announced in Ukraine

The first sentences have been handed down in Ukraine for the mass murder of Maidan protesters. The prosecutor has stated that he will be appealing against the striking verdicts and sentences.

Four former Berkut special forces officers have been convicted of charges stemming from the shooting of activists on Instytutska St on February 20 2014, the bloodiest day of the Euromaidan protests. A fifth ex-Berkut officer was found not guilty on all counts. Ukraine’s prosecutor and defence attorney have already stated they will file appeals, Human Rights in Ukraine reported.

Photo: Enforcement officers shooting in the direction of Maidan activists on Instytutska St. on 20 February 2014. Photo UNIAN

Only two of the five ex-Berkut officials were present to hear Judge Serhiy Diachuk pronounce the judgments on October 18 2023, at the Sviatoshynsky District Court in Kyiv: Serhiy Tamtur, who was acquitted, and Oleksandr Marynchenko, who was found guilty solely of exceeding his authority.

The two men returned to government-controlled Ukraine in 2020, following the very contentious decision in December 2019 to exchange all five defendants for hostages held captive in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk and Luhansk republics’.

In October 2021, Deputy Commander of the Berkut Regiment Oleh Yanishevsky, Pavlo Abroskin, and Serhiy Zinchenko were designated fugitives and placed on the international wanted list. Based on the number of other former Berkut officers who escaped to Russia and were almost quickly granted Russian citizenship, the three are likely hiding in Russia.

Oleh Yanishevsky was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for murdering defenceless citizens. He was also convicted of manslaughter and causing physical harm by carelessness, but the court dismissed the charges since they were time-barred and waived sentencing.

Pavlo Abroskin and Serhiy Zinchenko were both convicted guilty of the murders and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Oleksandr Marynchenko was only found guilty of abusing his governmental authority. He received a five-year prison sentence and a two-year ban from working in law enforcement. However, if the sentence is maintained, he will be considered to have served it. The court considered his time in imprisonment, which was computed as two days (under the worst conditions of a Ukrainian SIZO or remand prison) for one day of the punishment.

Serhiy Tamtur was acquitted on all counts. Some of the charges against Abroskin and Marynchenko were dropped.

Oleksiy Donsky, one of the primary prosecutors in the Maidan cases, represented the prosecution. He immediately declared that the prosecution would file an appeal, citing a Supreme Court decision that ruled that, in the event of a group of people who committed a crime, it is not important whether a single person’s role was more active or passive.

According to Hromadske TV, Donsky stated, “It is sufficient that the group acted in a coordinated fashion, that there were ties connecting them.” Based on the data, this elite Berkut unit matched those criteria on February 20. Although he was functioning as a member of the group, Marynchenko was found guilty of abusing his official powers but not murder.”

Stefan Reshko, a defence lawyer, also indicated that he would appeal the judgments of the three men guilty of murder.

As previously reported, two guys, Serhiy Zinchenko and Pavlo Abroskin, were arrested in April 2014, together with their unit commander, Dmytro Sadovnyk. On September 19, 2014, Judge Svitlana Volkova of the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv abruptly released Sadovnyk under ostensible home arrest. Serhiy Tamtur, Oleh Yanishevsky, and Oleksandr Marynchenko were later arrested and detained, with Tamtur and Marynchenko later released on house arrest.

It was usually reported that all five individuals were charged with participating in the killing of 48 Maidan demonstrators on Instytutska St and injuring many more. All five agreed to be in the area on February 20, 2014, but all denied shooting anyone.

There was widespread outrage when the men were released in a prisoner exchange in December 2019. Lawyers representing the families of Maidan victims and the protesting human rights groups were mainly opposed to the time. They believed any decision on such an exchange should be made after the trial’s scheduled conclusion in 2020.

In February 2020, Marynchenko and Tamtur returned to Kyiv, declaring their determination to establish their innocence.

In May 2016, the men’s trial began. It was continued following an enforced break caused by the release of all of the men, the return of two, and the necessity to ensure that the others were declared wanted and could be tried in absentia. This functionally second trial concluded in November 2022, with the jury still deliberating.

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