How Berkut was migrating to Russia
Units of Ukrainian special police Berkut became notorious during the events of the Euromaidan in Kiev, when they forcefully suppressed the pro-European rallies. After the regime of Yanukovich was overthrown, the Berkut troopers could expect difficult times so some of them moved to Russia. Alexander Ponomarev collected information about their fate.
On Nov 21, 2013 the streets of Kiev were flooded by those disagreed with suspension of the Ukraine-EU association treaty. The stand-off between the police, which included the Berkut unit, and the protesters, had ended late on Nov 29, when the policemen used tear gas and sticks. The brutal suppression of the protests caused the similar response, with rocks throwing to the policemen and threats to their families.
On Feb 25, 2014, the Ukrainian Interior minister Arsen Avakov signed a decree 144 disbanding the Berkut unit. “Berkut is over”, Avakov wrote in Facebook. That was the end of Ukrainian special police units created in 1992.
By the start of 2014, the headcount of the special forces in Ukraine amounted to 4,000. Part of them swore to the new Ukraine’s authorities while others opted to move to Russia (mostly to Crimea) and Belarus.
A few days after the Berkut was disbanded, Russian Foreign and Interior ministries had declared their readiness to employ its troopers. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office issued a search warrant over 24 former Berkut officers.
Russian Consulate General in Simferopol in March 2014 reported about one hundred passports issued for the former Berkut troopers. On May 30, Russian Interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev solemnly handed to ten formed Berkut officers from Kiev and Lugansk the Moscow police warrant cards. Besides, 92 policemen had been preparing the papers to receive the Russian passports.
Currently, five former Berkut troopers have been in detention in Ukraine, they have been accusedof murder of 48 Euromaidan’s activists. Twenty-one policemen have been wanted.
According to the former Commander of Ukrainian interior troops Stanislav Shulyak, in November 2013 - February 2014 twenty-three policemen were killed and 932 wounded. Over 100 protesters also were killed and many more wounded.
By September 2016, the Foundation for support of law enforcement veterans Center-T facilitated emigration of over 300 Berkut troopers and their families. The organization has been listed in the Ministry for economic and social development’s NCO roster. THe only information available on the Center-T is its address.
The foundation has been registered in Moscow in 2012 by Vladimir Koshkarev and Andrei Baranov. In the Center’s only report to the Justice ministry in 2016 there is information that the foundation's income did not exceed 3 mln rub.
Andrei Baranov is, perhaps, an author of the textbooks for the law enforcers, for example, “Intelligence training of the special police units”. According to the Russian state library, he printed those books in the All-Russia Institute for training of the Interior ministry’s servicemen and in the Anti-terror training center.
According to the Petrovka, 38 weekly published by the Interior ministry, in 2011 Colonel Baranov worked as a head of Moscow criminal police.
The foundation’s director Vladimir Koshkarev managed three more legal entities; only one of them has been functioning by now: the Youth military and patriotic center Zenit-2. The non-commercial partnership has been registered at the common address, no other information is available.
Two other founders of the Zenit-2 are Dmitry Belousov and Kirill Konyukhov. The latter is likely a professor in the Moscow State pedagogical university and also a founder of the Center for citizen-patriotic, sporting, recreational and educational work Forpost as well as the Center for Physical, patriotic, intellectual upbringing and development of teenagers and young people “Brotherhood of People”.
Dmitry Belousov’s full namesake works as an aide of the Russian President, he is an ex-minister of the Economic ministry, leading expert of the Center for macroeconomic analysis and short-term forecasts. The Center advises the authorities: Financial ministry, Ministry for industry and trade, education and science. The Center regularly signs contracts with the analytical center of Moscow city government.
Welcome to Russia
Some Berkut’s troopers keep coming to Russia to escape a possible prosecution. In April 2017, four policemen from Kharkov applied for the Russian citizenship. They were arrested in Ukraine on suspicion of power abuse and inflicting harm to the citizens, but a court of appeal in Kiev had released them.
The four policemen decided to leave the country. After crossing the border, they said they had wanted to escape criminal prosecution in Ukraine: “There’s no hope the case will be investigated fairly. It’s simply dangerous for us to stay in Ukraine”.
In the Ukrainian courts of prosecutors would demand to return the refugees, the request will likely be denied. In February 2017, Russia rejected the demand of Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office to extradite 12 former Berkut troopers.
“They’ve been pure political emigrants but the political asylum can’t be given in Russia to the citizens of the visa-free countries, like Ukraine”, an MP Konstantin Zatulin commented.
An aide, an MP
According to the InformNapalm “international intelligence community”, Zatulin actively participated in admission of citizenship to the Berkut former troopers. For example, he had written a letter to the head of the Federal migration service over the issue.
Zatulin, an MP from the United Russia, a member of the Committee for the countrymen’s affairs, director of the Institute of the CIS countries. In 2006, he was declared a non-grata person in Ukraine after the protests in Crimea against the NATO’s Sea Breeze-2006 military exercises. Two years later, Ukrainian border guards detained him in Simferopol airport.
The foundation’s director, Sergei Tkachuk, is also a co-founder of the Russian-Ukrainian forum, among 13 other co-founders, Sergei Glazyev among them. Glazyev has been an aide of the Russian President in charge of regional economic integration, former minister for Russia’s external economic relations. He has been in the sanction lists of the US, Canada, Switzerland, EU and Ukraine.
One of the largest companies participating in the forum has been the Almaz-Antei holding. It is a co-founder of the National Development institute, a co-founder of the Russian-Ukrainian forum.
Escape from Ukraine
Not all former Berkut troopers escaped Ukraine hassle-free. Ex-commander of the Berkut company Dmitry Sadovnik escaped from the house arrest in October 2014. He had been suspected of killing of 39 protesters on the Maidan and arrested in spring 2014. After the escape, he was put on the wanted list. The Ukrainian media claims he was given a Russian citizenship two months later and the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies found him in Crimea.
After June 12 protests in Moscow the information appeared that the former commander of Kiev’s Berkut Sergei Kusyuk had been among the riot police units.
As seen on the photos from the rally, Kusyuk was coordinating the police actions in Tverskaya street. A few days later, Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office demanded his extradition.
In 2014, Kusuk escaped from Kiev to Crimea. In 2015, he was put on the wanted list in Ukraine on charges of abuse of power and creating obstacles to a meeting conduction. Having being on of the Berkut commanders in Kiev, he coordinated suppression of the Maidan protests on Nov 29-30, 2013. He allegedly participated in the provocations, ambushes on political activists long before the events on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
The Crimean Berkut stands apart, as in February 2014 it dismissed the orders from Kiev and seized the administrative buildings and road blocks in the region.
Their actions had been recognized later: they had preserved their status as a special unit, were awarded by the Russian Defence minister Sergei Shoigu with the medals “For return of Crimea”, “For protection of Crimea” and the orders “For fidelity to duty”. Now the 1000-strong Crimean Berkut has been a special unit in the Russian Guards.
The Berkut’s high-ranking officers have been promoted. Former commander of its Crimean unit Yuri Abisov became an aide of the republic’s Prime minister Sergei Aksenov in 2016.
“Yuri Nikolaevich will be working as my personal aide in charge of coordination of the work with the law enforcement structures”, Aksenov said.
Abisov’s brother is Crimea’s Interior minister.