The Nameless Hundred: The missing people after February 18
What did the police, together with the titushkas, do with the bodies of the people, who were decapitated in the centre of Kyiv on February 18?
According to earlier announcements, 14 heroes of what started as a peaceful march to the Verkhovna Rada filled the ranks of Nebesna Sotnya – the Heavenly Hundred - on February 18. These are the people, whose bodies were found at the Officers’ House and on the barricades. These are the people who died in hospitals. These are the people whose arteries punctured by shrapnel. These are the people whose internal organs were ruptured as a result of blows from truncheons. These are the people with bullet wounds. These are the people who died of heart attacks.
However, many protesters still see before them not only the faces of those for whom funeral services were held on the Maidan, but the covered deformed bodies being loaded onto buses; black bags being loaded onto trucks; and decapitated bodies.
It seems that today, those whose “honest” power was won by the nameless hundred who gave their lives for it, are not concerned with the search for their mass grave, not to mention for those who committed the atrocities.
Ihor from Lviv is in the Third Hundred of Samooborona, Maidan’s self-defence. He is still on the Maidan – he has been for a long time now... He sometimes leaves the tents and barricades and goes to the Parliamentary building. This route is now a little easier for him. First of all, he can finally walk without crutches. Secondly, time heals somewhat... Before, he would sometimes get there and fall on his knees. He doesn’t want to go anywhere else. “I thought that I too had to stay here with them,” he says.
Many had similar thoughts.
On February 18, the day of the peaceful march, Ihor was detained with others by the police. He remembers being stripped, how mobile phones and money were taken from them. How they were beaten. How some interior troops gave the detainees who spent six hours in the paddy wagons cigarettes and bottles to use as toilets. He remembers ripping up a jumper to bind the open leg fracture, suffered by a young boy. How members of the AutoMaidan took him from the hospital – when asked if he could walk, Ihor honestly responded “I don’t know”. How he woke up in a church on the Left Bank. How he later hid in the apartment of good people, whose neighbour was the aunt of a Berkut officer.
But these are not the worst memories. The worst are those about death. He only talks about what he himself saw on February 18. “Three guys were shot to death. Four were beheaded before my eyes. While sitting in the paddy wagon, I saw black bags being loaded into a truck.”
In contrast to many eye witnesses, talking about similar incidents on February 18, Ihor is not afraid and agrees to be photographed.
BEATEN TO DEATH
“After dinner, when the police attacked protesters near the Parliament, I and five friends managed to break through to Mariinsky Park, which is where organised titushkas regrouped after the slaughter,” recalls Svoboda member Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn.
He stressed that the titushka contingent was diverse. It included professional athletes, petty criminals and blatantly antisocial thugs. The mercenaries were armed and coordinated differently. However, well-equipped and armed groups stood out. “They had non-lethal weapons and, I think, firearms. We saw several Kalashnikovs. Based on their appearance, they were coordinated and given tasks by former military personnel. At that time, they were guarding captives. They were taking off clothes and removing footwear from Samooborona members (we were surprised to see that titushkas actually knew what many of the Samooborona people looked like), cuffing the captives’ hands behind their backs with plastic strips and escorting them one by one to several staff tents. We saw one of those tents – there were probably 50 people in there. They were literally piled up … And at the same time, the titushkas handed some over to the police, although the criteria for their selection is unclear – and took them to the paddy wagons that were parked near the observation site in Mariinsky Park. Given this unusual filtration of detainees, it is almost certain that titushkas had cooperated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs which treated them as colleagues of sorts, conducting joint operations with them,” Yuriy pointed out.
Together with his colleagues, he was able to rescue a few self-defence people from the police. “We found Andriy Illyenko’s brother, Pylyp, in the paddy wagon. We also freed several guys from Ternopil Oblast. They were already barefoot, some were still in a state of shock from their acquaintance with stun grenades, some were badly beaten …”
But this was nothing compared to other incidents. “...To this day, I have horrific recollections,” Yuriy says. “It was on the side of Shovkovychna Street; I think they were members of one of the special forces units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, possibly Omega, but I’m not sure. They stood out because of their unusually strong physical condition, superlative equipment and the fact that they communicated among themselves in a specific manner, which made it clear that they were not regular internal-security troops. Members of the special forces tried to kill several of the captives that were already in cuffs. Their motivation for this was that these captives had allegedly attacked their friend. It was only with the help of five MPs that we were able to free people, lift them over the parapet and take them to the first aid point in Parliament. Once there, we took off their cuffs and later transported them out of the government quarter using the cars of MPs who were members of different factions. But in actual fact, they did not simply try to wound or severely beat these people. They intended to kill them. At the same time while we were getting the captives we had freed over the parapet, we saw deformed bodies being carried past us. Several were missing heads and limbs.”
Were these bodies carried to an ambulance? “No,” Yuriy says. “The dead bodies were carried to buses that were parked along Shovkovychna Street. They were covered, but had clear signs that they were deformed and generally dressed in camouflage. I assume that they were fighters from Samooborona units.”
THERE IS NO COOPERATION
What happened to these bodies? The question is open. These people have gone missing. However, there is absolutely no doubt (even if the deaths and “cleansing” is blamed on the titushkas, not the police force, after all, from the very start of the EuroMaidan, criminal mercenaries were not independent and always coordinated closely with security forces) that the Ministry of Internal Affairs could have established their current location. But it appears that it has no desire to do so.
“From 18 – 23 February 2014, sub-divisions of the Main Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in Kyiv received 30 notifications of people disappearing without trace,” the Ministry informed The Ukrainian Week. “12 criminal cases have been opened on the basis of this data. At present, the location of the indicated persons has been established – two have been recognised among dead bodies.” How many missing persons’ applications were filed after that? How many are pending at police departments? It is difficult for Ukrainians to find this out, since the departmental regulations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine “do not provide for the summarising of individual information on the disappearance without trace on 18.02.2014” as the Ministry comments.
As of April 13, 113 people were still missing according to EuroMaidan SOS, an NGO. Those who stood with them shoulder-to-shoulder through fire are not happy with the police’s activity.
Taras Matviy, a coordinator of the Maidan’s Search Initiative says that for a long time, members of the group, which was established on February 28, tried to help enforcement agencies. They questioned people on the barricades and collected quite a bit of potential material evidence. They visited the places of origin of the people that had come to Kyiv and subsequently went missing. Not once did the locals say that the police had visited them either before or after said members’ visit or that they had made inquiries or that they had searched for the missing.
Of course, the volunteers offered their assistance to law enforcement officers. They wrote letters. “But there is no cooperation. We are working through MP inquiries, there are MPs that are helping us,” says the group coordinator. However, they don’t always get responses, even to the inquiries of MPs. The information is often considered to be classified.
Society is gradually “closing itself off” from the authorities. “The current authority bodies cannot operate openly,” Taras Matviy concludes. “Over 40 days have passed. We have not seen any support.”
Distrust of law enforcers is back to square one. “What is the guarantee, that if we start to reveal information, it will fall into the right hands; that this information will not be used for a negative purpose or against us?”
Towards the end of our conversation, Taras said that volunteers, who are forced to work virtually independently, have already found quite a few people. They are alive, thank goodness. However, he admits that the main purpose of his group is to search for the mass grave.
The mass grave of those, whose names we don’t yet know, but there is hope that the lists of missing persons (although they are undoubtedly not exhaustive) contain the names of people who are still alive. Those, in whose honour, the mournful lines of the Lemko song “Who will dig my grave” will undoubtedly be heard again on the Maidan.
In this case, someone had dug their grave. And that someone must pay for this.