A U.S journalist says photographs published alongside his investigative report in the online U.S. news magazine "The Daily Beast" website this weekend “appear to reveal the truth” about who shot dead 53 antigovernment protesters at Kyiv’s Independence Square on February 20.
Jamie Dettmer says the photographs suggest the killers were ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s own security forces -- not a foreign-backed opposition faction or nationalist elements among demonstrators, as Yanukovych’s ousted regime and the Kremlin have claimed.
The photographs were taken in a courtyard of the headquarters of Ukraine’s State Security Service, the SBU, shortly before snipers began firing on demonstrators just three blocks away.
Some troops photographed within SBU headquarters are wearing dark uniforms and yellow identification arm bands as they arm themselves with snipers’ rifles and modified Kalashnikovs.
Dettmer, who spoke recently to RFE/RL’s Russian service, said the photos show a pro-Yanukovych Ukrainian Special Forces unit known as the “Alfa Team.”
“We are not saying we can prove that those guys in the photographs pulled the triggers," Dettmer said. "What is pretty clear is that there is an a priori facie case there -- that you have trained antiterrorist people, some who’ve been trained as snipers, locking and loading up before the shooting starts up in the Maidan on February 20."
Meanwhile, in further evidence of a link, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service on February 20 recorded video
of masked troops with the same uniforms and yellow armbands aiming the same tripod-mounted sniper's rifles and firing the same type of modified Kalashnikovs at Maidan protesters:
The Maidan massacre is now part of a propaganda war. The Kremlin claims protest leaders themselves or U.S. spies engineered the killings.
Russia’s state-controlled media and its UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, have claimed the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was involved.
Oleksandr Yakymenko, who served as SBU chief under Yanukovych, has claimed the snipers were protesters.
Dettmer said those claims aren’t supported.
“They’ve got to provide evidence. At the moment, they’re just shooting their mouths off without providing any documentary evidence, without providing any photographic evidence," Dettmer said. "We do know that one or two protesters did have rifles that day. But they’re not responsible for gunning down at least 53 protesters. We have a tremendous amount of evidence from British forensic experts who looked at the site and found where the most likely positions of the firing had occurred. And they had occurred in buildings that were under government control. Not the protesters.”
Many of Maidan’s victims were killed by clean shots to the head or neck -- forensic evidence Dettmer describes as “telltale wounds inflicted by expert marksmen.”
Earlier this month, a phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was released in which the pair discussed rumors that the snipers may have been hired by Euromaidan leaders.
Dettmer tracked down Olha Bohomolets, the Maidan doctor Paet quoted to support claims.
Bogomolets told the reporter
that Paet must have misunderstood her amid the chaos because she only saw snipers killing protesters.
Ukraine’s interim government is to release a preliminary report on its investigation this week. But with the SBU involved, Bogomolets fears the findings will be flawed.
RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz contributed to this report from Prague