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Police raid of Batkivshchyna office caught on security cameras (VIDEO)

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Dec. 10, 2013, 1:09 p.m. | Ukraine — by Katya Gorchinskaya

A view of Batkivshchyna Party's server room after a police raid on Dec. 9. The Interior Ministry said they had a sanction to raid an office located nearby.
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Katya Gorchinskaya

Katya Gorchinskaya has been the Kyiv Post's deputy chief editor since 2009 and is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and other publications. She can be reached at katya.gorchinskaya@gmail.com.

Just hours after President Viktor Yanukovych said on Dec 9 he was ready to sit at a round table to find a solution to the current political crisis, the offices of the biggest opposition party, Batkivshchyna, got raided by the police. Several video feeds from security cameras installed in the party headquarters, located on 13 Turivska Street in Kyiv's Podil district, filmed the attack.   

On these videos, a handful of men dressed in special uniforms and clearly marked as policemen first climb over the fence that surrounds the party office, and then are seen breaking locks and crashing doors with sledgehammers. Some of them clearly carry guns.

"In the corridor we have people with machine guns, trying to break through into server rooms," Ostap Semerak, a senior aide to Arseniy Yatseniuk, told the Kyiv Post at the time of the attack, which took place between 5 and 6 p.m.

The attack took place on the eve of the arrival of EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Aston, whose mission is to promote peaceful solution to the ongoing political stalemate. The attack of Batkivshchyna makes her mission even more difficult and the opposition less willing to negotiate with the government, its members said.

A Kyiv Post intern who was in the Batkivshchyna office at the time of the attack, said that masked men dressed in all black and carrying machine guns ordered people to stay where they were while the group physically removed the party's server. Meanwhile, a group of Berkut officers guarded a bus outside.

Fearing a similar raid, Vitali Klitschko's Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) evacuated its office that night.

But despite multiple eyewitness testimonies, in its original statement to Interfax-Ukraine the Interior Ministry denied any involvement. "The Kyiv police and the troopers of Berkut are not conducting any operations on Turivska in the Batkivshchyna office," the police said in their original statement.

Some time later, the police changed their line. They said the attack they conducted was sanctioned by court due to two criminal cases, which involve alleged fraud and abuse of office.

The police said a group of citizens reported to the police that a company, located on 19-B Turivska (an address on the same street as Batkivshchyna office is located) allegedly illegally seized computer equipment worth Hr 350,000. Moreover, they complained that officials from this company abused their authority.

But footage released by Reuters from the search last night, clearly shows uniformed policemen standing in front of the door marked as 13 Turivska Street, which is the address of Batkivshchyna Party office and the same one that was raided.

“During the search computer equipment and documents were confiscated as evidence in the criminal investigation,” the police said in their statement. But Yatseniuk, one of Batkivshchyna's leaders, described it differently.

"They've turned the server room into a mess… Searches are under way and the doors of the Batkivschyna Party's office are being broken down," Yatseniuk said at a briefing late on Dec. 9. "No parliamentarians are let into the office. All the equipment has been damaged.”

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