Today, on February 11, a group of veterans of the Afghan war who have been part of the Maidan Self-Defense for the last couple of months caught a man stealing from the donation boxes. They apprehended the thief. However, when the four Afghan veterans proceeded to take the thief to the police station, they were charged with unlawful use of force and detained.
“They were first registered as witnesses, then asked to give a statement, and then arrested,” says a commander of one of the Maidan Self-Defense Squadrons (to a Hromadske TV reporter). The 14th Squadron and the Afghan Squadron came to picket the Podilsky District Court, where the hearing was taking place. Several buses of the Berkut were parked around the corner, keeping an eye on the picket.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs states that the activists, allegedly, decided to exercise their own brand of justice on the thief.
Olga Bylik, speaker for the Kyiv police, says that on February 10, the Podilsky police department received a report that three unidentified men were leading a fourth one, with hands bound, in the direction of the Gavansky bridge. A police unit was dispatched to address the situation.
“At the site, a 31-year-old man sought help of the police. He reported that he came to Kyiv from Ivano-Frankivsk region, to take part in the protest at the Independence Square [the Maidan], where he has been since early January. He stated that that evening, a group of men approached him and started extorting money – in the amount of UAH 14,000. Then they beat him and drove him to 4 Naberezhno-Luhova street – where they were apprehended by the police on suspicion of extortion. The alleged reason the men were demanding money was their suspicion that this was the amount the victim stole at the Maidan,” tells Ms. Bylik.
The police states that the detained men are: a man from Ternopil region (36 y.o.); a man from Vinnitsa region (33 y.o.); a man from Kyiv region (45 y.o.); and a man from Luhansk region (30 y.o.). All of them are “active participants in the protests”.
Viktor Vasylyuk, the lawyer of the four veterans, tells a different story:
“There are plenty of witnesses at the Maidan who saw that there was no beating. This whole thing was a provocation. They [my defendants] are accused of beating and extortion. That provocateur had already been caught stealing twice. The first time, he was asked to return home. They even bought him a ticket, but he didn’t use it, choosing to return to the Maidan instead. When he was caught the second time, he offered to give the money back. But when [my defendants] came with him as asked, he started running, then fell to the ground and started shouting ‘don’t hit me’.”
The lawyer says that the four Afghan veterans didn’t even have the time to approach the fallen man. Policemen appeared out of nowhere and detained them.
According to multiple observations, throughout the whole duration of the Euromaidan protests, the Afghan veterans have conducted themselves with the utmost of restraint at all times and have dealt with multiple provocations calmly and with dignity.
The Ukrainian law states that if a citizen sees an illegal act taking place, it is their duty to detain that person if they can (essentially, a citizen’s arrest).
However, the reward for this particular citizen’s arrest was a charge with crimes under part 2, Article 189 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – Extortion, punishable by incarceration for a term of up to seven years.
The latest information is that all four veterans will receive two months of house arrest, restricted to their respective places of residence at all times. The picket outside the courthouse has dispersed. The legal defense announced that they intend to appeal the verdict and request to lift the house arrest in favor of personal recognizance.
[Click on photos to enlarge]: