4 Apr 2014

Protester killings linked directly to Yanukovych

11:09 am on 4 April 2014

The Ukrainian government says an official inquiry shows riot police were under the direct leadership of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych when they killed dozens of protesters in February.

A man injured in clashes during protests in Kiev in February.

A man injured in clashes during protests in Kiev in February. Photo: AFP

Almost 80 people were killed during three days of pitched battles between riot police and protesters in the capital, Kiev. Months of mass protests led to the ousting of Mr Yanukovych.

Both sides have blamed the other for starting the violence, the BBC reports, but prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk says the inquiry leaves no doubt about who was responsible.

Most of the demonstrators who died were killed on Instytutska St near the main protest camp on Independence Square, widely known as the Maidan.

Mr Avakov gave details of one particular episode where he said the inquiry had established that eight of those killed were hit by bullets from the same machine-gun.

The interior minister also showed slides and photos illustrating where he said police snipers were firing from. He named two buildings on Khreshchatyk and Kostyolna streets, saying other spots were still being investigated.

Russian operatives allegedly involved

Members of the security services' special unit Alfa are also believed to have taken part in the shootings, and Ukrainian security chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko says Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives were involved in planning operations against the protesters.

Mr Avakov said the previous authorities tried to make the inquiry impossible by burning uniforms, dumping weapons and destroying documents. Some of those responsible for the shootings are believed to have fled to Crimea.

A former Berkut officer, Volodymyr Krashevsky, has denied the allegations. He told the BBC that "neither riot police nor special forces snipers ... shot at protesters".

"If the investigation is conducted objectively, it will prove that they have no relation to killings," said Mr Krashevsky, who now heads the Berkut veterans' organisation.