Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The deputy head of the Party of Regions and active participant of the events at that time Oleg Tsarev told Radio “Komsomolskaya Pravda” how the Kiev Maidan 5 years ago passed the point of no return and came to an end with the capture of power.
THE AMERICANS EXERTED PRESSURE
In February 2014 you, one of the few deputies of the Rada, said that there is only one exit from the crisis – the dispersal of Maidan … It won – what was your mistake?
“I am sure that Maidan could’ve been dispersed. But, unfortunately, Yanukovych didn’t do it. How painful it was to look at all of this. It was clear – the country was being led to civil war, in accordance with the Yugoslavian scenario. And it was unclear why the authorities didn’t take measures.”
You supported a solution by force, dissuading Yanukovych from “negotiations with terrorists and bandits”. He did not hear you – or he was afraid?
“The Americans – Biden and Nuland – on the one hand exerted pressure, and on the other hand they deceived and left a rat hole, they did not drive Yanukovych into a corner definitively. Such were the tactics of negotiations. And the president every time hid himself behind their promises – and eventually he surrendered his positions one after another.”
Did he indeed not understand that he was knocked out from the president’s chair?
“He, seemingly, didn’t feel it. At that time Yanukovych’s approval rating was equal to the total approval rating of the leaders of the opposition – Yatsenyuk, Klitschko, Tyagnibok, and the imprisoned Yuliya Tymoshenko … I.e., the approval rating of the president was about 30%. And his environment rambled on about ‘you are the best, everything is good for us’. And those who came with bad news were expelled.”
KLITSCHKO WANTED TO FLEE
Moods in the Verkhovna Rada were changing before your eyes in the second half of February?
“Of course they did. I knew the moods of the opposition. Klitschko up to the last moment did not believe in the success of the mutiny. He ordered a chartered flight – and this plane constantly stood with its crew for take-off in Boryspol.”
So that Klitschko could escape urgently?
He was afraid for his life?
“Yes. And the plane freight was very expensive. Yatsenyuk also planned to fly away with him in case something happened. Tyagnibok, by the way, took a more reserved position, but he was also afraid for the life. They understood that they carry out actions that bear criminal liability. And they also understood that if the order is given, then the police will arrest them and they will be obliged to answer under the law. And they left the chance to flee until the last moment. Up to the 19th of February there was an opportunity – until the moment when the weapons warehouses in the West of Ukraine were captured – to disperse Maidan.”
On those days you communicated with “Berkut“, you saw how the mood in the management of law enforcement bodies was changing and how the point of no return was passed?
“It was the day when protesters tried to capture the Verkhovna Rada. They captured the office of the Party of Regions. One person was killed. A technical employee came out to the protesters – and he was killed. The girls from the office of the Party of Regions called me. And I couldn’t do anything because there was simply a sea of people. I advised them to hide. They came out onto the roof and survived, despite the fact that the building had been set on fire.”
The police stopped to do anything?
“When we went on the counterattack, I entered the building with ‘Berkut’ and with the first fighters. We pulled out the girls. We saw the deceased … After this I came to the hall of the Verkhovna Rada and said what happened. I remember the shock that the oppositionists had. They understood all the time what approaches. And all of them became silent …”
The first blood?
“No, but it was the first obvious bloodshed: the office of the Party of Regions was near the Verkhovna Rada. When ‘Berkut’ went on the counterattack, it reached Grushevsky Street. When panic begins, everyone runs – and it is already impossible to stop them. But suddenly the ‘stop’ order was given to the ‘Berkut’ officers. And I was called by Andrey Klyuev – the head of the administration of Yanukovych. I drove up to him in the administration. And he said that the order to disperse the protesters had arrived.”
MERKEL COULDN’T GET THROUGH VIA PHONE
It happened on February 19th?
“Yes, and he asked me to go to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and to ensure that the police and the minister executed the command. He called the minister in my presence and duplicated the order that arrived from the president. I said:
‘Andrey, I’ve already seen many times an order being given and then cancelled. It was given, it was cancelled … And I do not want to participate in what will not happen. Do you understand that now is the last opportunity, there won’t be another one – the last day when it is still possible to stop Maidan?’
‘Look, you know my girls in the apparatus. And you see, Merkel and ambassadors continuously call. And they all demand to put them through to Yanukovych! And I don’t put him into contact with anyone. He gave the order to not put him into contact with anybody’.”
Were you convinced of Yanukovych’s unwillingness to make decisive steps?
“I was convinced. I went to the Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaly Zakharchenko. I stayed at his office for two hours until after all the order arrived. There were reports – either there were no grenades, or there were no cartridges, or people weren’t transported … And here, finally, the order to start cleaning up sounded despite everything. At that moment I was asked to go and make an announcement on TV so that as few people as possible are affected on Maidan.”
You had to make an appeal so that people dispersed?
“Yes. So that at least some people dispersed. It was clear that not all of them would disperse. I had acquaintances at the ‘Inter’ TV channel. I went there, the news was immediately put to one side and I was put on the air. I made an appeal: ‘now there will be a storm of Maidan, and I ask everyone to disperse, this isn’t a joke’ …”
This was already the evening of the 19th?
“It was the end of the day. After this I went on Vladimirskaya Street, where the office of the SBU was. At this office there was a room where there were all the cameras that recorded Maidan continuously from all angles. All the information arrived there. And I was there in order to watch how the storming of Maidan will take place. I saw how ‘alpha’ members went to clean out the building of the trade unions. I saw that ‘Berkut’ started to move, when they started to storm Maidan, but unfortunately they then started to retreat.”
“Berkut” was given the order to retreat?
“At that timepoint I could not understand. I was in the office of the SBU. The employees of the SBU tried to call the police to find out what is going on? Heads of regional departments of the SBU from Ivano-Frankovsk, Ternopol, and Khmelnytsky started to call at this moment. They said that people had gathered near the regional departments, that there many of them, that now there will be a storm. We were asked: can you confirm if there is a dispersal of Maidan, as Tsarev said on TV, or not?”
DOLLARS OF MAIDAN
In the end, such an order did not sound?
“No. They said that they they are holding on until the order is given. But some time later in Kiev the building of trade unions started to burn. Moreover, it had been set on fire, as an ‘alpha’ member later told me, by the protesters themselves. When they started to go down from top to bottom, through the roof. And they set the first floors of the building on fire. Laboratories for the production of explosives and Maidan cash were located there.”
There was a lot of money there?
“A lot of cash. Most of it was lost.”
We are talking about millions?
“Tens of millions of dollars.”
In disappear in the fire?
“Yes. But in the same place there was a lot of live cameras. The camera was showing how protesters were shot, how protesters shoot at policemen. Policemen fell like skittles, their ranks thinned. But they didn’t shoot back. We started to call the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and found out that the ‘stop!’ order arrived.”
Who exactly gave this order?
“The level that delivered us information did not report to us where it came from. But it came to them from the Minister of Internal Affairs. After this a statement came from the minister Sergey Lavrov in support of Yanukovych. Somewhere around 04:00. And during all this time people from regional departments were calling.”
Did they hold on?
“They held on. Then the Lvov and Ternopol administrations were captured. Moreover, the police office and the regional departments of the SBU were captured. Protestors thus received large-caliber guns and boxes with cartridges in their hands. There were hundreds of thousands of cartridges. Even ‘Strela’ anti-air system fell into the hands of protesters.”
Where did all of this go?
“On the next day all of this was on Maidan. But in Khmelnytsky the head of the regional department of the SBU gave the order to shoot at protesters. He did not allow regional departments to be captured. Khmelnytsky is such a city where, even though it is in Western Ukraine, there is a nuclear power plant, and there is such a kind of enclave of the Russian-speaking population there who once arrived to raise the atomic industry. And of course, they are good people!”
How did the head of the Khmelnytsky SBU behave?
“He gave the order to give his staff their service records, personal records, and weapons so that it was impossible to determine who worked at the SBU. And he himself came out to the protesters voluntarily. Of course, he was beaten and taken to Kiev … But such people who were faithful to their duties always remained.”
In the morning of the 20th…
“In the morning I came to the administration, I walked past ‘Berkut’ officers, their faces were black, covered in soot. On that day police officers suffered 200 gunshot wounds. I do not remember now how many people died – for sure more than 20. The number of dead on that day was maximal.”
On February 20th?
“Yes. Among the police. On the next day weapons came from regions to Kiev – and already nothing could be done. Imagine the quantity of weapons that were received back then by protesters … After all, all of Western Ukraine had already been captured by them.
It was the end.”
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