Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Five years ago, on January 19th 2014, in the very center of Kiev events happened that later became crucial in contemporary Ukrainian history.
On that day Euromaidan, which had been on its feet for nearly two months, switched from a peaceful rally to the violent phase of the standoff with law enforcement bodies. The so-called “Grusha” – 200 meters of Grushevsky Street towards the governmental quarter – became the epicenter of these events. And the main platform near the burned-out buses near the entrance of “Dynamo” stadium became the main spot of the antagonism.
It is precisely here, after the latest Sunday veche that coincided with the orthodox holiday of the Epiphany, that a group of persons who called themselves “Right Sector“ led people from Maidan five years ago. Who actually stood behind them is still considered to be one of the unsolved mysteries of those times.
The matter is that initially the leaders of the opposition – Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Oleg Tyagnibok – declared these people provokers. The main argument of politicians at that time is that aggressive actions (the protesters used stones, Molotov cocktails, and petards against law enforcement officers) justified the forceful dispersal of Maidan. But the newly appeared “Right Sector” members and the public that supported them didn’t want to listen to anything about this.
Klitschko’s attempt to “withdraw” protestors when he was blasted by a fire extinguisher, after which “Right Sector” members swore at and banished him, became the apotheosis of the surreality of the events.
Everything pointed to Euromaidan definitively spiralling out of control for its own leaders. And already the next day, on January 20th, “TriTushki” (as the formal leaders of Maidan were venomously called) changed their tactics.
Afterwards they called those who gathered on “Grusha” patriots, in fact thus blessing the actions of the radical wing of Maidan protesters. From that day a fierce standoff and street fights near the “Dynamo” stadium in the heart of Kiev were ongoing almost around the clock.
Every day medics received a number of appeals made by law enforcement bodies and participants of the protest who complained about the wounds they had received. And early in the morning of January 22nd – on the Day of Unity, skirmishes started happening with more force and the first deaths were recorded.
It is these deaths, in fact, that turned the course of events in Ukraine upside down. If before this Maidan was fading away, and after the beginning of the radical phase many moderate supporters had been frightened off, then on this occasion the murders sharply changed the public’s attitude towards the government and demoralised it. It is precisely after these deaths that Yanukovych made the first concessions, cancelled a package of laws on January 16th, and dismissed the prime minister Nikolay Azarov.
In this regard initially there were two main narratives. Law enforcement bodies adhered to the first one before the victory of Maidan. According to the first narrative, the murders are the work of Maidan protesters for the purpose of discrediting the authorities. The second narrative – that the protesters were killed by law enforcement bodies – became the official one after the ruling team was changed. And it has remained like this ever since.
At the same time, the new facts that “Strana” has at its disposal put this under serious doubt.
Three deaths of activists
At 06:23 information about the death of a 3rd year student at the Dneprodzerzhinsk physical education college, 21-year-old Sergey Nigoyan, came to the call center of the Pechersky regional police department.
It was established that an hour before this the body of the guy was brought to the improvised hospital of Maidan protesters at 4 Grushevsky Street by unknown persons wearing camouflage. The autopsy that was then carried out will establish bullet wounds to the head and torso on Nigoyan’s body. Grapeshot rounds had been fired at the young man – he had been shot in the nape and twice in the chest area, having damaged one lung and his heart. At about 6 o’clock in the morning the biological death of the student had been recorded.
Law enforcement officers didn’t manage to find any video recordings of the moment of that the [pro-Maidan – ed] activist died. And the fact of a state of emergency itself with a lethal outcome soon started to be considered by law enforcement bodies as a possible provocation by certain persons who were interested in pinning this death on law enforcement structures.
Maidan protesters denied it, insisting that Sergey and other protesters had been shot by policemen.
“I spoke with the forensic scientist who examined him. There everything is unambiguous – the shot came from behind at a maximum distance of three-five meters, gun wads were found, i.e., it definitely wasn’t policemen who killed him,” said one of the acting employees of the prosecutor’s office of Kiev familiar with the materials of “Nigoyan’s case” anonymously.
This death wasn’t the only one to happen on that morning. At 09:25 on January 22nd one more signal about the death of a participant of Maidan was received by the special call line of the Pechersky regional department. This concerned the Belarusian from UNA-UNSO Mikhail Zhiznevsky, who missed his 26th birthday by three days.
The activist, bleeding profusely, was brought by people in camouflage to a first-aid post on Maidan exactly when representatives of the investigation team examining Nigoyan’s corpse were there.
As the initial examination will establish, Zhiznevsky’s death was caused by a gunshot wound to the chest with damage to the aorta near the heart and lungs. At the same time, the direction of the gunshot wound looked extremely mysterious.
It specified that Mikhail was shot from left to right, and from top to bottom. And, as the doctors considered, such a thing could only be possible if the Belarusian was shot when he bent down, or the shot was made from above.
Delivering Zhiznevsky’s body, his brothers-in-arms brought his motorcycle helmet, stick, and shield. It is especially these details that later allowed to identify the activist in the crowd thanks to video recordings.
In the following five years they were never published in the media, but “Strana” has managed to obtain these videos.
It follows from them that Zhiznevsky was indeed a part of a group of protestors early on the morning of January 22nd.
Mikhail Gavrilyuk acted as one of the “ringleaders” in it. Some minutes prior to the death of the Belarusian, the future people’s deputy from “People’s Front“ incited the audience for another attack against police officers.
Several moments later Zhiznevsky found himself directly near a burnt bus. Here he threw some objects towards law enforcement authorities twice, threatened them with a stick, and then started moving behind the skeleton of the burnt vehicle.
In the video it is seen how Mikhail goes to the “dead zone” for law enforcement officers, standing in front of the broken bus windows. And exactly at that moment, while he hides himself behind the bus, there is a flash of smoke. Most likely, it is precisely at this moment that Zhiznevsky was shot – his helmet falls to the ground.
After this his brothers-in-arms start dragging the activist under his arms in the smoke and under the accompaniment of the non-stop standoff.
We will note: the video was filmed from above, while the security officers stood below in front of the bus. And it was impossible to directly hit Zhiznevsky from their positions, and even if they did, it was a ricochet at most. Whereas the character of the gunshot wound clearly shows: the shot went from left to right and from top to bottom. On the left there is a bus skeleton, so a direct trajectory is impossible. Bu the shot could quite be made from a balcony on Grushevsky Street.
However, witnesses later appeared who affirmed that Zhiznevsky was shot when he was inside the frame of the bus window. But in video it is clearly seen that he moved from there to the side where he wanted to hide. And it is precisely there, seemingly, in the zone safe from the attacks of law enforcement officers, that he was shot.
However, the death conveyor belt on Grushevsky Street didn’t stop working even at this. At 14:25 on January 22nd doctors of an “ambulance” near the “Dnepr” hotel, where representatives of “Right Sector” lived at that time, picked up one more wounded activist.
It was the 45-year-old Lvov resident Roman Senik, who was struck by a Blondo bullet, which is used to force cars to stop. Two days later the man, whose hand had been amputated, died.
However, the circumstances that Senik died under still haven’t been established.
And the circumstances of the death of Nigoyan and Zhiznevsky highlight, to put it mildly, the ambiguity of the current story where law enforcement officers killed them with shots fired from police positions.
Dark case of Endrzhiyevsky
Later the number of deaths among employees of law enforcement employees also started to rack up. And the investigation believed that radicals/provokers from Maidan thus tried to settle the score with policemen, having raised the degree of the already bloody standoff.
This concerns the mysterious story of the death of the 27-year-old State Security Service inspector Aleksandr Endrzhiyevsky, who was shot in the evening of January 24th near the building of the Goloseevsky district administration of the capital.
Reconstructing the timeline of the murder of Endrzhiyevsky led detectives to the possibility that this crime could’ve been a mistake made by the Maidan protesters. The matter is that Endrizhevsky lived in the same hostel with “Berkut“ officers who were deployed for ensuring law and order in the center of Kiev. Video cameras showed that on that evening two young people loitered around this building: one was tall and round-shouldered, and the other was short.
Having noticed Endrzhiyevsky, they went towards him. After this the tall one dressed in a long jacket flaunting epaulettes with a button, his face covered by impressive glasses, fired a shotgun, having hit Endrzhiyevsky directly in the head.
He died on the spot, and the couple of probable murderers left the scene. Later they bought vodka in a cafe near the central bus station and were noticeably nervous. And as is considered, it is precisely this duo who later visited one of the Internet clubs where a scandalous message was sent from.
This concerns a message on a social network, according to which responsibility for executing the policeman was assumed by the “Ukrainian Insurgent Army” [the modern version of UPA – ed], having unambiguously specified that more victims will follow Endrzhiyevsky.
In 2015 UPA would again announce its presence. Back then the “army” will send a letter to the political scientist Vladimir Fesenko, in which he will specify: it is precisely this force (UPA) that is behind the deaths of well-known opponents of the post-Maidan authorities Mikhail Chechetov, Aleksandr Peklushenko, Oleg Kalashnikov, Vladimir Melnik, and Oles Buzina.
What in reality the mysterious UPA represented, and whose tasks were being fulfilled by persons who attached their proverbial signature to a whole series of prominent murders still hasn’t been established.
Crimes without punishment
Endrzhiyevsky’s murder has been hanging in the air for 5 years, and the National Police, which is engaged in the investigation, haven’t made any progress in it.
Concerning the death of the activists Senik, Zhiznevsky, and Nigoyan – the decision of the post-Maidan authorities to be engaged in these or those cases of the deceased protesters from among the “Heavenly Hundred“ was entrusted to the special investigations department of the Prosecutor-General Sergey Gorbatyuk.
The current narrative of the investigation is based on the results of repeated forensic medical examinations, which say that Nigoyan, Zhiznevsky, and Senik were shot not from a couple of steps away, but from a distance of about 30 meters. And consequently – it is law enforcement officers who could’ve killed them.
A year ago Gorbatyuk stated that employees of the special forces who were allegedly involved in this had been identified. But up to today it hasn’t been stated who exactly law enforcement bodies mean.
“Currently there is nothing to add to what was voiced earlier. The specific persons who carried out these crimes haven’t been established. But there is a complex of investigative actions that continue to be carried out – investigative experiments were made, witnesses were established and interrogated. Work on identifying those police officers who were present at the time that the murders were committed and approximately where the shots were fired from is still ongoing. And we see a field of activity for narrowing the circle of narratives and suspects,” said Sergey Gorbatyuk to “Strana”.
Five years appears to have been not enough in order to uncover the first murders on Maidan.
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