When a Berkut policeman realized I wore a bulletproof vest – he shot me in the face

Galyna Ostapovets
February 4, 2014 09:53 Gazeta.ua (for Krayina weekly)

Translated by Olia Knight
Source: http://gazeta.ua/articles/events-journal/_koli-berkutivec-zrozumiv-scho-ya-u-bronezhileti-vistreliv-u-oblichchya/539975

Special forces train in prisons. Unruly prisoners are brought in for the so-called “Maski-show” [note – Maski-show is a comic troupe from Odessa, Ukraine].

Afghan Anton Prymushko (left) and former Army sniper Alexander standing behind the main stage at the Maidan. Both have been present from the beginning of the protests, when "Berkut" special forces beat students on the night of November 30 on Independence Square (Maidan). They say they will go home only after the victory of the revolution. Photo:

Afghan Anton Prymushko (left) and former Army sniper Alexander standing behind the main stage at the Maidan. Both have been present from the beginning of the protests, when “Berkut” special forces beat students on the night of November 30 on Independence Square (Maidan). They say they will go home only after the victory of the revolution. Photo: Sergey Starostenko

Anton PRYMUSHKO, 44 years old. Born in Kyiv region. Lives in the village of Klavdiyevo, Borodyanka district of Kyiv region. Served in Afghanistan during 1988-1989. Has two college degrees, the second one in computer programming. Before Euromaidan worked as a director in one of the governmental structures. Now – he is the acting commander of the Afghan formation on Maidan. Married. Anton has an 8-year old daughter and a 1-year old son. He likes hunting.

After Berkut police left the Ukrainian House, I got to the roof and found about 10 shells there. It is a good location: it is very easy to see movement within the area of active standoff on Hrushevskoho. I saw a lot of footprints on the roof. They probably used binoculars to observe the situation. Also, I saw indentations from the gun rest on the snow. The hunters usually use them when they are hiding from an animal. To the right of the gun rests, I saw a couple of indentations in the snow as if shells had fallen on the ground. I grabbed a handful of snow and found four shells of 7.62×39 caliber. The shells are compatible with a Kalashnikov rifle and an SKS rifle (hunting rifle – “Krayina”). I do not think they had a Kalashnikov, SKS – much more likely. This rifle is often used in hunting and wars. This is not a sniper rifle, but it’s easy to transport, and its killing distance is up to 600 meters [Translator’s note: .37 miles].

Officially, the Interior Ministry does not use SKS. It is more likely that they took it for provocation purposes, so that they could justify their actions: for example, we do not use them, but civilians do. That is why the protesters shot their own, and not us.

I was shot by seven rubber bullets on January 19. Berkut was not as angry then as it got later. At first, they threw grenades into the crowd with delay: so that the grenades exploded not on the foot level, but on the level with heads. That is why there were a lot of head and eye wounds among the protesters. The delay is when the grenade is thrown on the count of “four”. I saw a disoriented girl near a police bus. I ran to her. When I was starting to move I felt that it was too easy to walk. I make a step, and something pushes me one step further. I turn and see a Berkut officer shooting me in the back at 5 meters. I wore a bulletproof vest that could seriously hold off a military bullet. That is why I could not feel the pain, just the push. When he realized that I was wearing a vest, he lifted his rifle and shot me in the face. I managed to bend away – three bullets flew past me. That same day, a rubber bullet from a 40-meter distance shot me in the ear. I passed out from the hit. A grenade hit the men by the barricades. They did not know how to protect themselves from it. They started running back and forth. I tried to run them off the perimeter and explain what they should do in this situation. Berkut probably thought that I was their organizer, and started throwing grenades and shooting me.

According to official sources, Ukrainians own about 2 million weapons. In one Kyiv district alone, there are 5,500 owners of sniper and Kalashnikov rifles. They use these guns to hunt. Unofficially, the number of gun owners is 5 times higher. Berkut police brag that they can empty Maidan in 20 minutes. We wish them luck. We have 500 Afghanistan vets on Maidan today. At first call, close to a thousand show up within an hour, and eleven thousand come within 24 hours. These are people with military experience that Berkut police lack. Shooting unarmed people is like a game for them. But when they receive a reply, half of them will run after the first shot.

A sniper is not effective during protests with thousands of participants

Oleksandr, 27 years old, army sniper

Worked as a personal assistant to general director of a building company. Born in Khmelnytsky. Single.

Snipers mostly use SVD rifle (Dragunov sniper rifle – “Krayina”). However, it is not effective during demonstrations with thousands of participants. Even if a sniper takes one person, it will not bring any desirable effects. Anything could have happened to that person: they slipped, somebody shoved them, and a sniper shot is practically invisible. In Moscow in 1993, the forces used a machine gun during clashes. People dropped down in groups, there were rivers of blood. This strategy influences the psychology of people, and makes them run. A sniper on Hrushevskoho can only work to observe and to warn. For a sniper to start shooting, he needs a minimum of five confirmations from his commander. A sniper is a person who pushes the trigger with skill, and not an individual who makes the decision to “liquidate the target”. A sniper can only report to their commander that there is a certain target and a certain danger.

Serhiy Nigoyan and Mykhaylo Zhyznevsky became accidental victims. Berkut police shot in the crowd, they did not have a concrete task to kill anybody. They shot from the direction of the Cabinet of Ministers. The man from Belarus was shot in the heart. The bullet went through. Nigoyan was shot from an SKS hunting rifle from a 10-15 meter shooting distance. The bullets for SKS are sold at gun shops, they are easy to obtain. The person who killed Nigoyan was not a sniper. The professional needs one shot, and Nigoyan was shot four times. That is why the information that both men were killed from a Degtyaryov sniper rifle is fake. The bullets of 7.62×54 caliber would have gone through and could not have gotten stuck inside the body.

The protesters responded that Berkut police threw grenades filled with nails and bolts. Obviously, this is prohibited. However, the police stand on barricades in the cold, they get angry – and need to put their emotions somewhere. Otherwise, even the most organized subdivision would be in disarray. That is why Berkut could have used grenades stuffed with nails and bolts, and shoot at people with rifles. In general, the police use rubber as well as metal bullets that are used to shoot to kill. For example, on a wall near the Dnipro hotel there is a definite indentation from a bullet. The indentation is the size of the bottom of a plastic cup. A rubber bullet would not leave such a trace.

Rubber bullets and blanks are not considered fatal bullets. However, if a person were shot at close range and on eye/temple level, it would be easy to kill the person. According to regulations, rubber bullets can be used at distances no closer than 15-20 meters. Berkut shot at 5-10 meters. These bullets are used to stop, and should only be used on the legs. Special forces shot at the core, and when they realized the bullets did not have the intended effect, they shot people in the head.

The Interior Ministry has numerous guns at its disposal. People regularly give away their guns, and police confiscate some. According to instructions, the weapons can be utilized outside Ukrainian borders. Many things can get lost or get written off. Even if they find a bullet or a shell and conduct an investigation with the participation of international experts, the police would argue that a random gun brought by one of the protesters, was responsible for the crime. Nothing can be proven. Just like with SKS hunting rifles: officially, the police do not use them. Therefore, the protesters will be blamed instead.

I saw six snipers on Institutska Street on the night of December 11. They wore a dirty-yellow uniform, and had rifle covers on their backs. They wore balaclavas, no helmets or bulletproof vests. It is possible they still work in Kyiv day-by-day. They constantly watch Maidan protesters. Policemen wearing civilian clothes with yellow-blue ribbons walk around Maidan as part of their investigative mission.

Berkut has violated even wartime rules on Hrushevskoho. It is expressly forbidden to attack buildings and cars with Red Cross and Half-Moon signs. But they openly threw grenades targeting the medical clinic, where surgeons helped wounded and hurt. They shot medical volunteers at close range, using red crosses as targets.

On November 30 Berkut could have emptied Maidan without shedding blood. They could have come and demanded the people to leave. Instead, they started beating children. Witnesses said that sleeping girls were woken up by the kicks. Children peed themselves out of fear. If they waited a week, everybody would have been gone. No, they were used to morally break people, so that nobody else would have thought about coming to Maidan.

Berkut trains and masters the use of batons in prisons. Usually they beat insubordinate prisoners. This is called the “maski-show”. And of course, this does not happen officially.

This entry was posted in "Voices" in English, English, Maidan Diary, Pictures, Voices of Revolution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.