Network of Organised Crime
Empty With A Whiff of Blood and Fumes
In 2012 state officials in Ukraine began to systematically assault Ukrainian activists, journalists and opposition members opposed to then President Victor Yanukovych’s regime. Each of the attacks directly succeeded the activists’ political protests or their attempts to resist the hijacking of city landmarks by businessmen close to President Yanukovich’s party.
At about the same time targets began to be warned of the violence to come. They were issued administrative fees, received anonymous threats by phone and saw their property destroyed. When none of these actions achieved their aims, the targets were cornered, usually when alone, assaulted and adviced to quit their activities.
Attackers often made no attempt to conceal their identities as employees or students of different Ukrainian law enforcement branches, or as the pro-government thugs who worked under the observation of law enforcement authorities.
On 18 May 2013, a gang acting under police protection assaulted the Ukrainian journalists Vladislav Sodel and Olga Snitsarchuk. A police investigation revealed one of the attackers to be Vlad Titushko. Later, his name became a catch-all term for pro-government thugs, “Titushki”, hired by the government to intimidate or assault activists during the months of Maidan revolution 2013. On 19 February 2014, a group of “Titushki” shot and killed Vyacheslav Veremiya, a journalist with the local newspaper “Vesti”, at approximately 50 meters from Mikhailovskaya Square.
On 26 May 2013, two individuals were attacked and ‘professionally’ beaten (up) on the corner of Akhmatova and Dragomanov Streets in Kiev: Vyachaslav Konovalov, a journalist and the head of a Criminology Institute, and Andrei Sorokin, a political activist. Although the complaint was filed with the police, the investigation was inconclusive. Under pressure from the pair’s friends and supporters, the police released the names of the perpetrators informally, though they refused to follow through with arrests.
On 25 December 2013, a jeep chased Tetiana Chernovil, a journalist and anti-corruption activist, off the Dnepropetrovsk highway while she was returning home from the airport. Three unidentified men then severely beat her. In her own words, the men were aiming for the head, exclusively with intent to kill. Criminal proceedings alleging “hooliganism” were opened, but the charges were later changed to “assault with severe bodily harm” after pressure from Chernovil’s colleagues and friends. The investigation stalled until after the Yanukovych regime was ousted in February 2014. The suspects were later detained but released in April 2015.
On 21 January 2014, Igor Lutsenko, a journalist, mayoral candidate and civil advocate backing the movement to preserve Kiev’s historical landmarks was kidnapped from Alexandrovskaya Hospital alongside Yuri Verbitsky, whom he accompanied to the hospital for treatment of an eye injury. Igor was interrogated about his involvement with Maidan. During his structured beating he sustained broken teeth, ribs and head injuries. Lutsenko was released twelve hours later in a forest near Borispolski district. The investigation into this case was launched according to article 146 of the Ukrainian constitution related to kidnapping and unlawful detention. Lutsenko’s abusers were apprehended in March 2014, one month after the Yanukovych regime was ousted from power. They’re yet to be convicted.
Gnata Yuri Metro
On 18 December 2013, three uniformed security officers stopped IT specialist Pavel Mazurenko outside the station of Gnata Yuri in Kiev. The officers initially asked for his documents, but the exchange swiftly turned into a confrontation during which Mazurenko was severely beaten with batons. He died three days later. Mazurenko’s wife launched an investigation into his murder, but the medical experts on the case stated pneumonia as his cause of death.
Aviacionnaya Street, Crimea
On 13 March 2014, three activists of the Maidan movement, Sergei Suprun, Natalia Lukyanenko and Alexei Gritsenko were kidnapped at gunpoint from their vehicle on Aviacionnaya street in Sebastopol in Crimea. The three were interrogated, severely beaten and released after three days. The authorities saw no means of investigating this case due to the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation shortly after the kidnapping.
Mikhailovsky Square II
On 24 July 2013, at around 10 P.M., an ideologist behind the FEMEN activist movement, Viktor Svyatsky, was brutally beaten on Mikhailovsky Square Kiev, not far from the FEMEN office. The police has launched a preliminary investigation into the assault under paragraph 125 of the Ukrainian constitution relating to physical assault. The investigation reached was inconclusive. Svyatsky subsequently immigrated to Switzerland where he has received political asylum.
Torez city, Donetsk region
On 21 December 2013, two police officers assaulted Eugeni Nasaduk, a political activist. The officers waited for him on Tolstogo street in Torez city in Donetsk region. The officers then forced him to accompany them to the local police precinct. An investigation established that the policemen had mistakenly taken Nasaduk to be someone else.
On 14 January 2014, late in the evening, two unidentified pro-government supporters cornered the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper “Pro-City” at the entrance of his office. The attackers used heavy metal tubes to beat him, causing head injuries, breaking his ribs and a leg.
Gnata Yuri Street
On 14the of May 2013 a gang of six sportsman attacked Vladimir Karas and Eugeni Matsko and on 25 May 2013, at the same location, Eugeni Parfenov. All three were political activists and were beaten in a systematic manner ‘for their activities’. The investigation into the beating was inconclusive.
Late at night on 22 January 2014, an activist Yuri Verbitsky was kidnapped from Alexandrovskaya Hospital alongside Igor Lutsneko, who had accompanied him to the hospital for treatment of an eye injury. Verbitsky was found frozen to death with signs of severe torture on the roadside bordering Gnedin Forest. A murder investigation was launched and the perpetrators were apprehended, but only after the Yanukovych regime was ousted from power. No verdict has been reached.