The Euromaidan protests in Ukraine have entered their second month, with several hudred thousand protesters gathering in Kyiv and other cities daily. The movement began as a pro-EU demonstration mostly by young people in response to a halted Ukraine-EU agreement that would bring Ukraine significantly closer to the European Union. After the brutal beating of students and other protesters by the riot police division known as “Berkut” on the early morning of November 30, 2013, the daily rallies turned into a nation-wide anti-government protest.
A series of detentions and arrests followed. Nine seemingly random protesters were detained on the day of this particular rally, severely beaten by the police and later charged with plotting and organizing mass riots despite the almost complete absence of evidence corroborating the charges. Three more people were arrested shortly afterwards on the same charges – two journalist activists from “Dorozhnyi Control” (Road Control) initiative and a photographer from the Ukrainian city of Lviv, who took pictures of the police brutality incidents on November 30.
Helping Bankova prisoners and other victims of repressions
These people became known as the “Bankova prisoners”, named so after Bankova street near the Presidential Administration building, where the clashes with police took place on December 1, 2013. Their cases have been highly publicized and, following appeals by local and international journalists, MPs and diplomats, and mass rallies in defense of the prisoners, reportedly three of the detainees were found guilty and fined, five were released with trials pending, and three remain jailed for a two-month term under further investigation.
The video [uk] below shows a “lying picket” under the Ukrainian Public Prosecutor's Office initiated by the Democratic Alliance. Activists lie on the steps of the building forcing employees to literally step over them, just like they “step over the law”. The protesters shout “Shame on you! Shame on you!” [uk].
To support these and other activists repressed for participating in Euromaidan, Ukrainian netizens have set up a Facebook page [uk] and a special website [uk, en] dedicated to aiding the Bankova prisoners.A group of human rights activists set up a separate Facebook page called “Euromaidan – SOS” [uk] to offer free legal assistance to everyone facing repression due to participation in Euromaidan.
The role of such initiatives remains extremely important, as the pressure and number of brutal attacks on Euromaidan activists has increased exponentially. Thus, in the recent days stabbing of Kharkiv Euromaidan organizer Dmytro Pypypets, deadly beating of Kyiv Euromaidan activist Pavlo Mazurenko and brutal attack on journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovil were reported. Unfortunately, journalists remain on the forefront of these incidents and authorities seem unable or unwilling to put such practices to a halt. Amidst these events social media users have shared calls for organizing in their defense [uk], including suggestions for providing physical protection to lead media and activists.
Identifying and demanding prosecution of those guilty in beating peaceful protesters and media
After almost a month since the brutal beating of peaceful protesters in the streets of Kyiv on November 30 and December 1, the government has neither identified nor prosecuted any of the officers involved, and have just dismissed two middle-ranked related public officials in an unsuccessful attempt to diffuse unrest.
As the authorities fail to identify members of the “Berkut” riot police division and other law enforcement authorities guilty of mass beatings during Euromaidan, several initiatives appeared online that aim to do this work themselves. “Ne zabudemo” (“We won't forget”) describes itself as a “movement for the restoration of justice” [uk]. By collecting photographic and video evidence from the protests as well as accounts of witnesses through its website [uk] and social media accounts, they aim to uncover and reveal the identities of Berkut members, as well as other related policemen, public prosecutors, investigators, judges and other individuals involved in incidents of brutality and the subsequent cover up attempts.Another blog called Faces of Berkut [uk, en] on Tumblr serves a similar purpose, seeking to identify only Berkut policemen partaking in brutal beatings and arrests.
Lustration lists and other “name and shame” initiatives
A political party and active participant of Euromaidan, the Democratic Alliance, set up a website “Ne buty skotom” (“Don't be an animal”) crowdsourcing the names and photos of policemen involved in beatings, judges and prosecutors banning peaceful rallies or prosecuting activists, as well as thugs initiating violence against Euromaidan participants and journalists, and similar cases.
“UDAR” – another opposition party active in Euromaidan and lead by a former world boxing champion Vitaliy Klychko compiled its own list of authorities that should be subjected to lustration when the government is changed. UDAR's Euromaidan Lustration List [uk] already contains over sixty names.
As the fate of the ongoing Euromaidan rallies remains uncertain, such initiatives are meant to foster exchange of information and help activists exert continuous pressure on authorities, while the protests continue and grow.