Families of Heavenly Hundred demand explanations on how suspects from Berkut special division could escape to Russia


Families of the Heavenly Hundred want the competent authorities to explain how four more Berkut officers suspected of murder of protesters could manage to escape to Russia. “We want a report from competent authorities – from the Ministry of Internal and General Prosecutor’s office, how it could happen. Why the Ministry of Internal does not have enough bracelets for Kharkiv ‘Berkut’ troops, why they keep to the rules of house arrest only after interference of the society and advocates? How did border control took place and why there were no instructions regarding border crossing by people under investigation,” said Volodymyr Bondarchuk, head of the NGO “Family of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred”, son of the killed Serhii Bondarchuk, during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Four former Kharkiv Berkut troops – Vitalii Honcharenko, Oleksandr Kostiuk, Vladyslv Masteha and Artem Voilokov – fled to Russia on April 13, according to their lawyer. In their statement they said they were going to apply for a Russian citizenship and will follow the trial from the Russian territory. This is the fourth case. Suspects of Yurii Verbytskyi’s kidnapping and murder, commander of Kyiv Berkut company Dmytro Sadovnyk and Kharkiv “titushky” (thugs for hire) have already fled to Russia.

Families and lawyers of the Heavenly Hundred emphasized that dragging the cases as long as possible looks as if it was done on purpose to distract attention from them. In Honcharenko’s case, court session did not happen twice because he did not give consent to video conference session. Nevertheless, the third time public activists weren’t there, the session took place and he was released. Families of the Heavenly Hundred knew nothing about this session. “Investigation officer told me personally that there will be no session, because the case was submitted to the court,” says Halyna Didych, widow of the killed Serhiy Didych (Honcharenko is accused of murdering him too). “The court did its best to let Honcharenko flee to Russia safely. There were no preventive measures for him. There is another question of how the ATO veteran’s identification card didn’t prevent Honcharenko from going to Russia.

This incident gives ground for suspecting that all the other suspects will flee to Russia in the nearest future. “It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. It is a set scheme – nobody detains them till the issue becomes less acute, then they are detained, then somehow there are no grounds for them to be kept in prison, then they are put under house arrest and then it happens so that they flee. I’m not accusing anyone, I’m just thinking,” said Volodymyr Holodniuk, deputy head of the NGO “Family of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred”, father of the killed Ustym Holodniuk. “It cannot be happening without the consent of authorities. If there is no adequate report and evaluation of these events, we will say that public officers are also involved with these people’s escape,” emphasized Bondarchuk. One of Berkut officers said once that “any authorities need people like us”.

Moreover, families of the Heavenly Hundred demand explanations from authorities as to why security officials suspected of crimes during the Revolution of Dignity still keep their offices, and why judges who made illegal decisions have never been punished. “That’s a huge question to the minister Avakov and his counsels, as the accused and suspects still serve in law enforcement agencies. At the same time, there are no internal investigations conducted by order of the General Prosecutor’s Office. On the contrary, we see many cases when their chiefs make arrangements to reinstate them in the office. This happened in Honcharenko and Kyiv Berkuts’ case,” said Vitalii Kuzmenko, a casualty of November 30 events. “We demand a meeting with the minister Avakov and want him to answer all our questions in person. Lawlessness causes new crimes,” said the mother of the killed Maksym Shymko.

Relatives of the Heavenly Hundred appealed to the General Prosecutors’ Office requesting close monitoring of all cases and place of stay of the suspects. They called upon civic activists to join the court sessions monitoring, as it is only control and transparency that can secure some progress. “There are cases where there is almost no audience – as we, the families, are not strong enough to attend all sessions,” explained Bondarchuk. Court’s calendar is available on the website of the NGO “Family of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred” and Advocate Consulting Group.

“This is reactionism. We need to join the efforts of families, media, citizens who hope to achieve something, and develop a counteraction mechanism,” emphasized Vitalii Tytych, member of Advocate Consulting Group. Vitalii Kuzmenko said that a statement will be given to the qualification committee regarding lawyer Valentyn Rybin’s violation of legal ethics. They will also report to the police on his threats to one of the November 30 casualties. “We believe that some of his actions should be handled by the Security Service of Ukraine,” he added.