Ukraine’s overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych was supposed to give evidence by video link on Friday to a court in Kiev which is trying five former police officers who have been charged with shooting protesters during the Maidan protests of 2013 and 2014.
Yanukovych had previously made known that he intended to deny giving any orders to shoot protesters, and that he would say that the violence during the protests which caused numerous deaths amongst protesters and police officers was instigated and largely carried out by the leaders of the protests. His video testimony to the court would have given him an opportunity to provide further details, and to enlarge on this under cross-examination.
In the event Yanukovych was prevented from giving his evidence. To avoid accusations that I am relying on biased anti-Ukrainian Russian sources to describe what happened, I will quote from The London Times
“A curious series of events had conspired to prevent his testimony. First, a fire at a local substation temporarily knocked out electricity to the courthouse district in Kiev.
Then, two hours before Mr Yanukovych was due to appear, a handful of camouflage-clad Ukrainian nationalists blockaded the detention centre holding the accused officers, preventing their arrival at court.
Mr Yanukovych was asked to return on Monday, but a nationalist spokesman suggested that a second prison blockade was likely.
“Personally, I think the video interrogation is an absolute disgrace,” Zorian Shkiryak, chief adviser to the internal affairs ministry, said.
“Yanukovych, apparently, was sitting all night and learning those instructions, which were written for him, because he would not agree to this without a direct order from Putin.””
This – what The London Times calls a “curious series of events” – was in reality a carefully planned action to obstruct the course of justice and to deny the five imprisoned police officers a fair trial by preventing their single most important witness from giving evidence on their behalf.
This action was moreover carried out with the active collusion of the Ukrainian authorities. That this is so is confirmed by the comments of the Interior Ministry official The London Times quotes. In what sense is it “an absolute disgrace” for a witness to give evidence to a court by video link? Nowadays it happens all the time.
The London Times admits in the article that there may be a deliberate plan by the Ukrainian authorities to slow down the process of the trial. However it does so in a way that assumes Yanukovych’s and the police officers’ guilt, and which hints darkly – though without providing the slightest proof – that it is Yanukovych who is responsible, and that he is blackmailing the Ukrainian authorities in order to achieve it
“The slow progress has raised questions about the government’s commitment to bringing old cronies to justice. President Poroshenko was a founding member of Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. A thorough investigation into Mr Yanukovych’s affairs could risk retaliatory disclosures.”
(bold italics added)
The reality is that the Ukrainian authorities have no interest in establishing the truth of what happened on Maidan Square during the 2013 and 2014 protests, because doing so might threaten the founding myth of their “revolution”, which was really a coup. To that end, as Friday’s events show, they are willing to sacrifice the right to fair trial of the police officers by bringing in ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ (in reality far right thugs) to disrupt their own court.
The London Times report shows how the West makes excuses for them as they do it, allowing them to get away with it.