Interfax: Accusations made against Berkut contradict evidence – Lavrov

Sergei Lavrov file photo

MOSCOW. April 3 (Interfax) – Russia is currently not judging whether information that Berkut special task forces were involved in the shooting of people in Kyiv on February 20 is true or not, but says that such information contradict a lot of other evidence.

“I can’t judge right now how grounded the statements [made in Kyiv on the investigation into the shooting on the Maidan] are. At least they contradict a huge amount of evidence of the opposite,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow on Thursday, commenting on the statements made by Ukrainian officials on the involvement of the Berkut special task force in the shooting of people on Kyiv’s Maidan on February 20-12.

“It’s hard to evaluate these statements. However, we have heard other statements, including those that were not meant for the general public, in phone conversations between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” Lavrov said.

“We are operating on the assumption that the truth should be determined in a transparent and full way,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov recalled that the agreement on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine signed on February 21 contained a provision on the investigation into the events that occurred in Maidan, in which people were killed.

The riots in Kyiv began in late November 2013, when supporters of European integration of Ukraine made speeches on Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan). The situation reached its peak on February 21, when the opposition clashes with police in central Kyiv.

On February 18, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry reported that snipers had opened fire on the police, the special task force Berkut and protesters in the Maidan area. Over 130 police officers were wounded. According to the ministry, a total of 565 policemen have sought medical assistance since February 18, and 410 of them were hospitalized.

According to the Ukrainian Health Ministry, over 100 people were killed in the protests in Kyiv (most of these people were killed in February), and 1,075 people have sought medical assistance, of which 698 were hospitalized.

In his speech given in the UN Security Council in mid March, Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin said snipers had fired shots at protesters and police during the Kyiv riots from the headquarters of the “Maidan commandant” Andriy Parubiy.

On Thursday morning, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told a briefing in Kyiv that the shots fired by the Berkut special task police on Kyiv’s Institutska Street in February had killed 17 protesters.

“Seventeen people were killed […] That task force openly fired shots at protesters,” Avakov said.

Three Berkut members, including the commander of the Berkut special company, have been detained, the minister said.