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Ten protesters sent to prison, dozen missing as street protests enter third week

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Dec. 5, 2013, 7:21 p.m. | Ukraine — by Anastasia Forina, Oksana Grytsenko

Victims of the violent Nov.30 night events at Maidan Nezalezhnosti take refuge in St. Michael's monastery.
© Anastasia Vlasova

As protesters rally into the third week, none of their stated goals has been achieved. 

President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Mykola Azarov’s government have refused to resign. Meanwhile, on Dec.3 parliament failed to dismiss the government. Only 186 lawmakers voted on a no-confidence bill out of a required 226. Among the police – accused of using excessive and indiscriminate force against protesters and journalists on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 – only one resignation has followed but was accepted by the interior minister. 

In the meantime, at least 15 rally participants in Kyiv have been reportedly missing. Nine from the Dec.1 rally in front of the Presidential Administration, including one journalist, and one protester detained near the monument to Vladimir Lenin were incarcerated for two months.

Six in addition remain hospitalized after being bitterly beaten by the police. One of them Vladyslav Zagorulko received serious trauma to the eyes and risks losing his vision if he stays in a police detention center, Pavlo Petrenko, lawmaker of Batkivshchyna party said.

As of Dec.5 the EuroMaidan SOS community of Ukrainian students and activists posted a list of missing protesters. The Kyiv Post contacted some of their family members and confirmed that the whereabouts of at least five from the list are still not known. Yuriy Udartsov, deputy prosecutor general, said that a criminal probe was launched to search for them.

The ten protesters, six of whom are hospitalized, and four of whom are in pre-trial detention, face up to 8 years in jail on suspicion of organizing mass riots.

At large is Dmytro Korchynsky, the leader of the radical Bratstvo group, who as of Dec. 5 is wanted for allegedly orchestrating clashes with police on Dec. 1.

“We cannot allow people with knives and fighting chains walk along streets and crash state institutions,” Bezkyshny told members of the parliamentary human rights committee on Dec. 5.   

However, video footage shows riot police on Dec. 1 brutally beating protesters and journalists near the Presidential Administration. Meanwhile relatives of the detained say they have recognized their family members on various videos post online. Moreover, law enforcement agencies have received 26 reports from journalists injured during incidents on Dec. 1, the interior ministry reported.

“On one of the videos I recognized Mykola. He was lying on the pavement while Berkut police officers were kicking him. They asked him how much money he could give and then took away his wallet,” said Yana Stepanenko, girlfriend of detained 23-year old architect Mykola Lazarevsky, mopping tears from her eyes at a press-conference in Kyiv on Dec.4 that brought together relatives of some of the detained.  

Mykola Lazarevsky and his girlfriend Yana Stepanenko (courtesy)

According to her, Lazarevsky is wrongly accused of riding a front-end loader that was used on Dec.1 by demonstrators to smash down the fence near Presidential Administration's building and injured several police officers, according to the interior ministry. The driver of the machine wore a red blazer while Lazarevsky had on a black one that day, she said.  

Valeriy Harahuts, journalist and founder of “Litsa” (Faces) newspaper was also among those beaten and detained on Dec.1. Oleksandr Miroshnychenko, Harahuts’s lawyer who is representing him in court, said he is outraged with the case.

“They are accusing Harahuts in order to hide the riotous behavior of police officers,” Miroshnychenko said. “He was beaten and tortured while carrying out his job responsibilities. This can’t be left without attention.”

The Ukrainian branch of of Amnesty International, one of the world’s biggest human rights organizations, has asked Ukrainian authorities to carry out independent investigations into allegations of disproportionate use of force by Berkut riot police officers in Kyiv on Dec.1.  “We are urging Ukrainian authorities to solve this issue in legal contemplation, not in a political one,” Tetyana Mazur, director of Amnesty International in Ukraine said.

Udartsov, the prosecutor said that two criminal cases were opened against two Berkut policemen for abuse of authority.

On Dec. 5, the opposition member of parliament filed a bill aimed to liquidate the Berkut police, Batkivshchyna party leader Arseniy Yatseniuk said. “The perspectives of new draft law are high if the rallies on Maidan go on,” he added.

Kyiv Post staff writers Anastasia Forina and Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at forina@kyivpost.com and grytsenko@kyivpost.cpm

Kyiv post staff writer Vlad Lavrov contributed to this story. 

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