The truth about the Maïdan massacre

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The events that occurred between February 18th and 20th 2014 on Maidan Square in Kiev are at the origins of the present crisis, not only in Ukraine but also between the NATO countries and Russia.

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The government presently in power in Kiev and the principal rulers of the EU hold on to the thesis that a peaceful demonstration was subjected to a massacre provoking the death of about one hundred people by the forces of the government of Mr Yanukovich, the regularly elected President. As early as at the beginning of March, one could have extremely strong doubts about this version of the facts, as well as about the explanations provided by the opponents of Mr Yanukovich, according to which the latter would have fled Kiev, abandoning his functions. The possibility of a provocation was manifest, and this carnet expressed it as early as March 5th[1]. Moreover, the circumstances of the « flight » of President Yanukovich not having been clarified, the problem arose of the continuity, or not, of the constitutional order in Ukraine [2]. This is an important question. If one considers that Mr Yanukovich has left Ukraine on his own will, this can be assimilated de facto to a resignation, and the change in government would not constitute a break in the constitutional order. If it is established that Mr Yanukovich left Kiev under threat, whether real or imaginary, and that he was dismissed from his functions by a rump parliament, we are confronted with a revolution implying a break with the former constitutional order, which then legitimates the various referenda held in Crimea as well as in Eastern Ukraine.

The work of professor Katchanovski

In the absence of any serious will on the part of the present government to shed a light on these events, researchers in political science have put themselves to the task. A document has been presented at a seminar on October 1st 2014 by professor Katchanovski[3], of the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Ottawa in Canada. It is known that there is a considerable Ukrainian community residing in this country. After a thoroughly exhaustive analysis of the sources at disposal, sources originating almost exclusively from the camp of the « pro-Maidan » and from the local television stations (Espresso TV, Hromadske TV, Spilno TV, Radio Liberty, and Ukrstream TV), Katchanovski reaches the irrefutable conclusion that snipers have operated from inside the camp of the demonstrators and that the forces faithful to President Yanukovich only shot back in riposte. A majority of the people killed were so in the crossfire, which occurred then, or fell victims to shots in the back, as they were facing the police forces. Professor Katchanovsky then writes: « Various statements by medics, videos, photos, and media reports confirm that dozens of protesters were shot precisely in necks, heads, thighs, and hearts, the most lethal places, and that many entry wounds were from the top, side, or back.This is consistent with locations of shooters on the roofs or top floors of all specified buildings. Precise and deadly gunshots and the 7.62mm Kalashnikov AKMS type assault rifles and various hunting weapons and ammunition used also indicate that shooters were positioned within several dozen meters from the places where both the police and the protesters were killed or wounded »[4].

He also mentions brutalities and exactions which were committed by the special units, the « Bierkut » which assured the security of the President, but these exactions occurred after the first shots were fired. The tragic events on the Maidan, which put in motion the process of the dislocation of Ukraine and the civil war which we are witnessing today are therefore indeed the result of a deliberate provocation. This provocation was set up by the extreme-right group Pravy Sekhtor, with the possible complicity of Svoboda and of the self-defence forces of the demonstration. Katchanovski, describing what happened then wrote: “The Main Post Office at the time of the February 20th shootings was occupied by the Right Sector, an alliance of radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations and football ultras groups, which took active part in the violent attacks on the presidential administration on December 1, 2013 and the parliament in the end of January and on February 18, 2014. The Maidan company commander confirmed that at that time his special combat company, which included armed protesters with experience of fighting in armed conflicts, was based in the Conservatory building. He stated that this company was formed with an agreement of the Right Sector. In a new US documentary investigating the Maidan massacre, Berkut members said that they noticed protesters with the Right Sector insignia in the Music Conservatory building on February 19, that armed protesters took positions there, and that they were shot and wounded, while other Berkut officers killed by shooters from the second floor of the Conservatory in the 24 morning of February 20. Maidan eyewitnesses among the protesters said that organized groups from Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions in Western Ukraine arrived on the Maidan and moved to the Music Conservatory at the night of the February 20th massacre, and that some of them were armed with rifles ». This point to a well-organized attempt to seize power, either directly or indirectly through the emotion such a massacre would have provoked.

We quote also the documents he wrote this time answering to some critics he had to face: “The evidence indicates that the Right Sector was one organization involved in the massacre, while names and identities of other organizations and leaders remain not sufficiently clear. As the research indicates, they might include Svoboda and the leadership of the Maidan Self-Defenses. Their leaders and many top activists were offered or occupied top positions in the newly-formed government after the massacre and threat of more violence that ousted Yanukovych[5]. This has deep and far going consequences. If we accept evidences collected by Katchanovski we have to consider what amount to a “Coup” and not a peaceful demonstration assaulted by law enforcement agencies.

In his original document he concludes: « The massacre of the protesters and the police represented a violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine and a major human rights crime. This violent overthrow constituted a nondemocratic change of government. It gave start to a large-scale violent conflict that turned into a civil war in Eastern Ukraine, to a Russian military intervention in support of separatists in Crimea and Donbas, and to a de-facto break-up of Ukraine. It also escalated an international conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine. The evidence indicates that an alliance of elements of the Maidan opposition and the far right was involved in the mass killing of both protesters and the police, while the involvement of the special police units in killings of some of the protesters cannot be entirely ruled out based on publicly available evidence. »[6]. Professor Katchanovski’s work has of course raised many questions and provoked polemics. He answered them in a short paper to be found here.

The stakes of truth

One can well measure the stakes arising from the revelation of the truth of what happened on Maidan Square between the 18th and 20th of February 2014. If Professor Katchanovski’s work is confirmed, and if it is considered trustworthy, it becomes then impossible to go on maintaining that what occurred in Kiev was the departure of a corrupt President before an angry demonstration. The fact that Yanukovich was corrupt is obvious and the Russian officials who negotiated with him at the end of 2013 have no qualms saying so. They described quite openly how Yanukovich tried to “sell” the agreement against a considerable amount of money for him and his crony group. But he was nevertheless the country’s regularly elected President. From the moment that minority groups decided to carry out what must be called a putsch, there was no question any longer of a constitutional continuity in Ukraine. As a result, this rupture of the constitutional order, by virtue of the principle of the people being the sole depositor of the sovereignty, authorized fragments of said people to hold referenda as to their inclusion or exclusion from the Ukrainian nation. It was in nobody’s power to declare such referenda to be “illegitimate.”

It is tragic in view of all this that the governments of the European Union, and Germany in particular, have decided to trample on the fundament principle on which they themselves are based. It is just as tragic that they have engaged in a logic of confrontation with Russia over the matter of Ukraine, a logic which has no basis in Law and which turns out, additionally, to bring grave threats to weigh on international relations. These governments have surrendered to a logic of emotions on a question which demanded that one apply in the contrary the principle of reason. Henry Kissinger’s interview given to the Spiegel of November 13th says nothing more.

[1] Sapir J., « Provocation à Kiev ? », note published on RussEurope, 5 March 2014,

[2] Sapir J., « La Crimée et le droit », note published on RussEurope, 7 March 2014

[3] Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the School of Political Studies and the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University,  and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics at New York State University at Potsdam, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Political Science at University of Toronto, as well as Kluge Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Kluge Center at the Libray of Congress. He obtained his PhD at George Mason University.

[4] Katchanovski I., The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine, 1er octobre 2014, p.25.

[5] Katchanovski I., A response to Critics,

[6] Katchanovski I., The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine, 1st October 2014, op.cit., p. 29.

Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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