A man with a gun runs along a street during a clash between opposition protesters and riot police at a burning barricades near the Presidential office in Kiev, Ukraine, in February. Efrem Lukatsky/AP
Ukraine’s interim government on Thursday issued a report that accuses ousted President Viktor Yanukovych of ordering police snipers to fire on protesters during anti-government demonstrations, a day after the former leader denied the charge.
The Associated Press quotes acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov as saying Yanukovych also “employed gangs of killers, kidnappers and thugs to terrorize and undermine the opposition during Ukraine’s tumultuous winter of discontent.”
More than 100 people were killed by gunfire — many by sniper fire — in the run-up to Yanukovych’s ouster in February.
Avakov said 12 Berkut (special forces) police snipers had been arrested in connection with the finding.
The BBC reports:
“At a news conference in Kiev, Mr. Avakov presented the initial findings of an initial investigation into the mass shootings that shocked Ukraine and the world.
“Most of the demonstrators who died were killed on Instytutska Street near the main protest camp on Independence Square, widely known as the Maidan.
“Mr. Avakov gave details of one particular episode where he said the inquiry had established that eight of those killed were hit by bullets from the same machine-gun.”
On Wednesday, Yanukovych, in an interview published by The Associated Press, denied he had any role in the killings.
“I personally never gave any orders to shoot,” he said.
“As far as I know, the weapons were never given to those special troops who took part in defending the state buildings and the state bodies — they just complied with their orders,” Yanukovych said.