In 1 October 2014, Ivan Katchanovski, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Ottawa and formerly a visiting scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, presented the first academic paper to deal comprehensively with bloody day of February 20, 2014.
The paper, titled “The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine”, was presented at the Chair of Ukrainian Studies Seminar at the University of Ottawa.
In his paper Professor Katchanovski produces solid evidence for the argument that hired snipers were involved in shootings of protesters on Maidan, even if police forces are not to be absolved from blame for firing on protesters.
Indeed, a EU High Representative Catherine Ashton was caught on tape discussing with the Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet serious allegations that those who fired on the protesters in fact came from the opposition.
However, a full investigation has not been followed, nor has any Western government publicly called for such an investigation.
The new Kiev government’s investigation resulted in the arrest of three members of the Ukrainian riot police “Berkut” who were held accountable for the killings. One of the three disappeared, with the possibility that he was either killed or fled equally probable at this point.
Professor Katchanovski’s full paper can be found here and deserves to be studied and analyzed in great detail.
Only several key arguments will be provided in this article while those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of what took place are highly encouraged to read the report in full and view its evidence and documentation for themselves, especially as its many details seemed to have escaped the notice of the mainstream media.
Some Key Arguments:
- The events of February 20th begun as “Berkut” and “Omega” police units halted the advance of protesters to the Zhovtnevyi Palace by shooting both live and rubber bullets, and later retreated (p. 4). Bullet traces indicate police fired on protesters (p. 5).
- A video taken by the BBC depicts snipers who fired on protesters from the Hotel Ukraina, and the shooter was then identified as wearing a green helmet as those worn by Euromaidan protesters (p.7), traces and bullet holes also indicate the shooting came from the hotel (p.8).
- At least 12 public buildings were occupied by snipers or spotters. The new Ukrainian Government’s investigation did not address these issues (p.5).
- Snipers fired on both police and protesters (pp. 6-7). A commander of Berkut said that snipers from the hotel fired at his people (pp.8-9)
- A radio report of the Alfa police commanders states that about ten people from the Music Conservatory went to the Dnipro Hotel with their arms hidden while another ten went to Hotel Ukraina.
This is confirmed by other radio exchanges (p.11). Radio exchanges were later juxtaposed by Euromaidan activists with other photos to present SBU snipers as responsible for the shooting (p.12).
However, the public video did not include other radio transmissions of police units regarding civilians who were carrying weapons in bags (p.12).
- It appears that snipers targeted international journalists but not Euromaidan film crew (p.17)
- Two leaders of the Svoboda party were near the Ukraina hotel during the shooting (p.18)
- Maidan activists claimed that the Right Sector and other activists searched the hotel later that day but found no shooters (p.18)
- Shortly after shootings carried out by snipers, representatives of the far-right Svoboda, Fatherland and the Radical Party, spoke at Maidan and accused the Yanukovich government of carrying out the massacre (p.19)
- According to a statement by a EuroMaidan figure, 11 members of the “Berkut” police unit were wounded by snipers who fired from the Music Conservatory building. (p.21)
- Witnesses claim that groups from West Ukraine took over the Music Conservatory building that day on the same morning and that some of them had guns (p.24)
- On February 21, following the bloody shootings, Yanukovich was given an ultimatum to leave his position and subsequently fled (p.24)
- The exact identity of the snipers or those who hired them is still unknown (p.26)
- While video depicting Berkut police firing was used by Maidan as evidence that they fired at protesters, Ivan Katchanovski writes that “the analysis of the publicly available evidence is inconclusive whether Berkut and Omega killed any of the protesters, specifically unarmed ones, because there were other shooters killing the protesters at the same very time” (p.27).
- There is no evidence of Yanukovich ordering police forces to shoot at protesters nor have radio transmissions of various police units suggested this , commanders of various police groups denied receiving such orders (p.27)
Katchanovski concludes by saying:
“The seemingly irrational mass shooting and killing of the protesters and the police on February 20 appear to be rational from self-interest based perspectives of rational choice and Weberian theories of instrumentally-rational action.
This includes the following: the Maidan leaders gaining power as a result of the massacre, President Yanukovych and his other top government officials fleeing on February 21, 2014 from Kyiv and then from Ukraine, and the retreat by the police.
The same concerns Maidan protesters being sent under deadly fire into positions of no important value and then being killed wave by wave from unexpected directions.
Similarly, snipers killing unarmed protesters and targeting foreign journalists but not Maidan leaders, the Maidan Self-Defense and the Right Sector headquarters, the Maidan stage, and pro-Maidan photographs become rational.
While such actions are rational from a rational choice or instrumentally-rational theoretical perspective, the massacre not only ended many human lives but also undermined democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine” (pp.28-29).
It remains to be seen whether Western governments and international organizations such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch will demand a full and impartial investigation.
In its account of the subsequent investigation carried out by Ukrainian Government following the massive bloodshed on Maidan, Human Rights Watch claimed that the new Interior Ministry believed that Ukraine’s riot police “Berkut” was behind the shooting while the writer did not add a word of reservation or question the credibility of the given position.
Russia’s argument that snipers from the opposition could have been involved in the deadly shooting was accompanied by the writer with a word of caution, stating that “if true, this evidence should be shared with investigators”.
However, the findings in this article seem to suggest that the current Ukrainian Government has been failing its own citizens by not carrying out a thorough and impartial investigation and by blaming all of the killings that took place on the deposed government.
The people of Ukraine deserve a full investigation.
Thanks to Kristina Rus with her help with this article.