On the morning of Dec. 4, a police operation to catch a suspected theft ring ended in the shooting deaths of five police officers who fired on each other by mistake in Knyazhychi village, some 15 kilometers west of Kyiv.

The tragedy took place around 4 a.m. as Kyiv criminal police operatives were preparing to catch a group of people suspected in a number of robberies in Kyiv and in Kyiv Oblast. The police learned of a plan to rob a house in Knyazhychi. Officers set up a trap nearby to catch the suspects.

But something went wrong and events unfolded as no one expected. Two criminal police operatives were hiding in an unfinished house, preparing to signal the rapid reaction units to start the operation when the suspects appear. But, unexpectedly, a security alarm in a neighboring place went off, triggering the arrival of a team of protection police, a division of national police that provides security services to people and businesses.


The protection police officers who came saw and followed the fresh footprints in the snow leading to the neighboring unfinished house, thinking the burglars who triggered the alarm were hiding there. They found two men there – two criminal police operatives – and detained the duo, confusing them with criminals.

At the same time the rest of the criminal police officers waiting nearby witnessed the scene, thought the criminals uncovered and caught their colleagues and so came to their rescue. A KORD unit, a division of the national police, similar to SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) teams in the West, joined them.

A tragic shootout erupted between the protection police and members of the regular police and the KORD unit.

In the meantime, the three actual suspects, who allegedly prepared for the robbery in Knyazhychi that morning, heard the shooting and hastily left the location. They were detained in Kyiv with firearms shortly afterwards and are expected to be charged with a number of criminal offenses, the police said.


“The three intruders were detained by police, their firearms were seized. They will be brought to justice,” the Interior’s Ministry website states.

The Interior Ministry did not specify why the coordination between different police divisions failed and who started the shooting, which led to the killing of two protection police officers, two criminal police officers and a KORD special forces soldier.

Former Chief of National Police Khatia Dekanoidze called the shooting between the police officers “the heartbreaking tragedy.”

“My sincere condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed police officers. Heartbreaking tragedy,” Dekanoidze wrote on her Facebook page.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has not publicly commented on the event as of this writing.

Artem Shevchenko, Interior Ministry spokesperson, said the prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the incident and they will have to determine what went wrong and why. The ministry is also conducting its own internal investigation of the incident.

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