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Special investigation: what does Berkut defend in Belarus? Part I

This is the first part of the new OSINT investigation report by the Belarusian editorial team of InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community, uncovering the identities of former members of Berkut, a disbanded Ukrainian special riot police force, who have continued their service with Belarus police and are suppressing protest rallies against Lukashenka regime in the Republic of Belarus.

Updates of Earlier Identification Data

The first OSINT investigation undertaken by InformNapalm’s Belarusian editorial team in 2017 detected three Berkut ex-members serving in Belarus police: Mykola Stohorniak, Serhii Havryliak, and Serhii Panasenko. Today, they are all members of OMON, Special Police Force of the Main Directorate of Interior of Minsk City Executive Committee.

The new investigation has not only confirmed the identification of Serhii Panasenko, the subject of our previous report; we also uncovered his full name, the exact date, and the place of his birth.

Serhii Serhiiovych Panasenko (Sergey Sergeyevich Panasenko in transliteration from Russian)

He was born on February 01, 1988, in Hannivka village of Berezansky Raion of Mykolaiv Oblast of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. He lived in the same oblast, in Ulianivka village in Mykolaiv Raion. Having completed conscription service in the Army, he enrolled in Berkut, a special-purpose police company with Mykolaiv Oblast Department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior.

Panasenko was sent to Kyiv together with his unit from Mykolaiv in November 2013. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he fled to Belarus. Lukashenka’s regime granted him citizenship and on-boarded him to serve with Minsk OMON, a special-purpose police squad.

After the publication of the results of our prior investigation, Panasenko changed the name of his VK account to Sergey Chernobayev, deleted his photos and several contacts from the friend list. He also made his account private and closed access to its content. However, his social media profile has been preserved in full in web archive services. All the deleted contacts were reviewed which enabled us to identify several more subjects of this investigation.

Panasenko was identified in a group photo, together with Mykola Stohorniak, a subject of our previous investigation, an ex-Berkut officer, and a current Minsk OMON officer.

Mykolaiv Berkut policemen at their permanent base. No. 1 is Serhii Panasenko; No. 2 is Mykola Stohorniak

Shoulder insignia of a non-commissioned officer are visible on Panasenko’s uniform. He is presumed to have the rank of senior sergeant.

Our open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigation confirmed that Panasenko testified in court against Zmitser Dashkevich, a leader of Belarus’ national democracy movement. On December 31, 2016, Dashkevich was detained near his house and taken to a precinct of the Pervomaisky district police department of Minsk. According to him, he was detained without any explanation from the police. On this day, Dashkevich and his associates had a plan to celebrate the New Year under white-red-white flags in the center of Minsk.

It is the long-standing practice of political repression in Belarus that police officers, who have detained civic activists, testify against them in court. It follows from the administrative offence ruling that it was Panasenko who stated in his testimony that Dashkevich purportedly failed to comply with lawful demands of a police officer (Article 23.4 of the Administrative Violations Code of the Republic of Belarus); as a result, Dashkevich had to pay a fine of 50 base units (BYN 1150).

A photocopy of Ruling No. 6/96-17 of January 16, 2017, in the administrative offence case against Zmitser Dashkevich.

Notably, a video record made by Dashkevich during his arrest refutes Panasenko’s words completely.

It has been established that Panasenko was directly involved in the surreal story of the detention of two brothers—Aliaksandr Kuushynau and Viktar Kuushynau—from Minsk. Both brothers came separately to the Central Electoral Commission’s building on July 15, 2020, to complain against its failure to register candidates for the electoral campaign. Once the CEC stopped accepting the complaints, Aliaksandr Kuushynau rode his bicycle home but was unable to pass through the OMON cordon on Independence Avenue. He was detained and sent to the Akrestsina Detainment Center.

Aliaksandr Kuushynau is being detained by OMON servicemen; they literally threw him into the prisoner transportation van

Viktar Kuushynau, his brother, was detained near the Main Post Office building—he was going to mail his complaint after the closure of the CEC. Both brothers ended up in the same prisoner transportation van.

It is noteworthy that Panasenko, who detained the brothers, told the court a wrong place of their actual detention initially. The location (26 Miasnikova Street) that he indicated in administrative offence reports is 1.5 km away from the actual place of their detention (11 Independence Avenue). It turns out that Panasenko had no clue of the geography of the Belarusian capital’s center after six years of his service in the Minsk police.

A selfie taken by Aliaksandr and Viktar Kuushynaus in the prison van

The court sent the case to Moskovskyi District Department of Interior in Minsk for revision and sentenced Aliaksandr and Viktar Kuushynaus to 10 and 11 days of arrest, respectively. Panasenko did not attend any of the court sessions; according to Dmitry Balaba, the commanding officer of the Minsk OMON, he allegedly was on an assignment outside of Minsk; however, he managed to testify somehow that he was mistaken about the place of detention of the brothers.

It follows from the administrative case materials that he applied force against Aliaksandr Kuushynau. The case materials contain Panasenko’s witness interview.

This document not only confirms Panasenko’s initials and date of birth determined earlier but also serves as documentary evidence that this ex-Berkut member is now a serviceman of Minsk OMON. Panasenko is reported to serve as a member of the 5th operational company of Minsk OMON.

We also found further evidence confirming that another ex-Berkut member Serhii Havryliak, a subject of our previous investigation, is a Minsk OMON serviceman as well.

Serhii Mykolayovych Havryliak (Sergey Nikolaevich Gavrilyak in transliteration from Russian)

He was born on February 06, 1984, in Zelene village of Mykolaiv Oblast of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Having completed conscript service in the Army, he enrolled in Berkut, a special-purpose police company with Mykolaiv Oblast Department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior. He was sent to Kyiv together with his unit from Mykolaiv in November 2013. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he fled to Belarus together with his family.

It was established that Havryliak and Dzianis Sharets, another Minsk OMON officer, took part in detaining an anarchist Raman Khalilau on September 21, 2017. According to Khalilau, the riot policemen stopped him on the street for identification, but, in spite of his presenting them his passport, he was detained and delivered to a police station.

Raman Khalilau in the court / svaboda.org

Havryliak and Sharets testified in Zavodskoy District court of Minsk that Khalilau allegedly plucked at their uniforms, resisted arrest, and tried to provoke a brawl. Their testimony underlay Khalilau’s being accused of the failure to comply with demands of the police (Article 23.4 of the Administrative Violations Code of the Republic of Belarus) and fined in the amount of 15 base units.

It is noteworthy that, after the disclosure of the information about his service for Belarus’ Ministry of Interior, Havryliak changed the name of his VK account to Aleksey Kravchenko, removed information about his studies in Mykolaiv National University, and deleted almost all of his friends from the contact list together with all photos.

New Investigation Targets

Further ex-Berkut servicemen that moved not only to Belarus but also to Russia-occupied Ukrainian Crimea were identified as a result of analysis of Panasenko’s contacts deleted by him from the firend list in his VK account.

Anatolii Anatoliyovych Prymak (Anatoly Anatolievich Primak in transliteration from Russian)

Anatolii Prymak was born on April 23, 1990, in Ivanivka village of Arbuzynskyi Raion in Mykolaiv Oblast of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Having completed conscript service, he enrolled in Berkut, a special-purpose police company with Mykolaiv Oblast Department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior. He fled to Belarus together with other colleagues of his after the victory of the Revolution of Dignity. Currently, he serves in Minsk OMON.

The investigation zeroed in on Prymak as a colleague of an ex-Berkut member Mykola Stohorniak. It was in this status that the latter marked him in the contact list in his VK account. Prymak’s VK account is frozen at the moment and cannot be accessed.

It follows from the information from the account’s Education section that Anatolii Prymak was a student of Ukraine’s National Academy of Interior.

A thorough analysis of social media accounts of ex-Berkut officers from Mykolaiv and their matching with the contacts deleted by Panasenko produced two more social media profiles of Prymak; one of them, aliased as Stanislav Semeniuk, was active at the time of the investigation (12).

However, that account was mopped up after the publication of ex-Berkut members found in Belarus in 2017; Prymak’s photo, his numerous posts were deleted, together with almost all accounts of members of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Belarus from his friend list. However, we managed to find the previous version of the account in the cache of Yandex, a Russian search engine.

Prymak’s account stored in the cache of Yandex, a Russian search engine

As an avatar for this account, Prymak used his own photo taken next to the amusing sculpture of Bathhouse Attendant (a. k. a. Merry Vasia) near Bath #7 on Moskovskaya Street in Minsk.

Prymak posted to this account on January 19, 2017 (the post has already been deleted) a photo of participants in sports competitions.

It was established on the basis of the OSINT analysis that a hand-to-hand combat championship among officers of Minsk police took place on January 17 and 18, 2017, at the Personnel Physical Training Center of the Minsk Executive Committee. According to the propaganda outlet SB Belarus Segodnia and the website of Dynamo, a fitness and sports society, Prymak, a serviceman of Minsk OMON, ranked second in the heaviest weight class (over 90 kg) (12).

These outlets also published photos from the above-mentioned championship. One photo, although taken from a different angle, is almost the same as the one posted by Prymak.

Prymak is on the far right / sb.by

Another photo shows Prymak with a referee and his sparring partner—presumably, an employee of the Training Center.

Prymak did not win this time / dynamo.by

It was established that Prymak was a member of a group named “Politics | Berkut Is Defender of Peace in the Country.” In May 2016, administrators of the group published a special poll to find out its members who used to serve in Berkut. In spite of all security measures, Prymak responded to the poll and stated that he was serving in OMON’s special platoon.

According to information from our own sources, there are at least two separate platoons in Minsk OMON.

Below, there are further photos of Prymak taken before he fled from Ukraine to Belarus after the Revolution of Dignity. These photos can help identify the policemen who may be involved in perpetrating crimes against Ukrainians during their service.

Notably, the last name of this ex-Berkut officer from Mykolaiv was mentioned on March 6, 2020, at the session of Tsentralnyi District court of Minsk examining the administrative case of Mikola Dziadok, a famous Belarusian civic activist and anarchist, in connection with his participation in a Freedom for Political Prisoners rally in Minsk on February 26, 2020. Prymak was summoned to the court to testify together with another OMON officer but failed to appear, allegedly due to illness.

The investigation also focused on Dmytro Antsupov, yet another ex-Berkut serviceman. His data were found in contact details of Mykolaiv Berkut members and current Ukrainian police officers—they marked him as a colleague of theirs.

Dmytro Ihorovych Antsupov (Dmitry Igorevich Antsupov in transliteration from Russian)

He was born on October 13, 1975, in Volsk of Saratov Oblast of the Russian Federation. He used to live in Mykolaiv. Being one of the veterans of the company in Mykolaiv, he enrolled in Berkut in the 1990s.

After the Revolution of Dignity, he became an officer of a new special police force consisting of ex-Berkut members. Presumably, he fled to Belarus in the spring or summer of 2014. He serves in Minsk OMON.

Antsupov during a practical exercise at a shooting range, Ukraine

The analysis of social media accounts of servicemen of Berkut’s Mykolaiv company made it possible to detect and identify Antsupov in photographs of his service comrades.

In Mykolaiv Berkut’s base. Antsupov is on the far left. This photo was taken before November 2008.

The photo also shows Dmytro Kulikov (on the far right), police lieutenant-colonel and the last commander of Mykolaiv Berkut), together with his deputy, a police captain Anatolii Horbunov—the latter is also presumed to be hiding in Belarus (further parts of this investigation will provide more information about him).

For the first time, Antsupov was identified in open sources as a Belarus police officer in an SB Belarus Segodnia publication. This media outlet reported about a meeting in the Interior Department of Minsk Oblast Executive Committee that took place in July 2018 and was dedicated to the performance review of the regional special police force in the first half of that year. The meeting was attended by Vitaliy Kazlou, a police colonel and deputy head of the Interior Department, and Siarhei Bialkevich, a police major and commander of Minsk Oblast OMON. Antsupov, an ex-Berkut member, was identified in the published photo of this meeting.

Antsupov is marked with a red circle / sb.by

In addition, Dmytro Antsupov was featured in a story on the STV state television channel about the black beret exam passed by OMON members that took place on November 20, 2019. The story was published on YouTube. Starting from the 2:25 time mark, a man in civilian clothing can be seen watching a sparring fight of OMON police officers and looking back as if to analyze the situation during an interview with Ivan Kudin, an OMON officer.

Stills from STV’s video. Antsupov is marked with a red circle

There was enough time for the camera to capture Antsupov’s face clearly.

Antsupov’s identification by means of the comparison of stills from STV’s video with photos from his social media accounts

It should be added that Antsupov was recorded on video at Minsk OMON’s base (in 42 120th Division Heroes Street).

It follows from the data published on October 26, 2020, on the Cyber Partisans Telegram channel that Antsupov is an inspector of the special training unit of the public security police special force (OMON) of the Department of Interior of Minsk Oblast Executive Committee. This information is apparently correct because the birth date of the investigation target is the same as the one established as the result of the investigation.

Antsupov’s job in Minsk Oblast OMON established by hacktivists matches his earlier job in Mykolaiv Berkut.

It has been found that Antsupov was a deputy commander of a new special company and a senior inspector in charge of the combat training of the special company of Mykolaiv police and held the rank of a police captain in April 2014.

On April 24, 2014, he took part in special tactical training at a checkpoint aimed at training personnel of his company in securing public order and preventing armed conflicts in Mykolaiv, filtering vehicles, and taking appropriate measures in the case of a potential breakthrough.

 Antsupov during the checkpoint exercise, April 2014, Mykolaiv / news.pn

When asked by a journalist about the views of his squad, Antsupov reiterated that the officers were patriotic and ready to defend the homeland. Notably, Crimea had already been occupied by the time of the interview, and Ukrainian forces had been fighting Russian units for a week and a half in Donbas as a part of a full-fledged anti-terror operation.

Currently, we are trying to find out the reasons that made Antsupov flee to Belarus, forget his oath of allegiance to Ukraine, and enter the service in a uniformed agency in Belarus. However, his own posts on the OK social network can shed some light on this.

A few months after stating his patriotic stance as a defender of the Motherland, he decided to openly support Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, apparently from Belarus:

Antsupov’s account was found as a member of groups supporting Anti-Maidan and Luhansk/Donetsk People’s Republic terrorists and glorifying Russia’s “greatness and mightiness.” In addition to sharing posts from these groups, Antsupov is reposting texts from a pro-Russian separatist group Za Odessu-mamu.

The account is full of Russian propaganda cliches and narratives of “death squads,” “genocide of Donbas people,” “Kyiv junta,” “militia heroes,” etc.

It is up to the Ukrainian investigative agencies to find out whether Antsupov had been recruited by Russian intelligence services.

Antsupov’s case provides vivid evidence that sincere supporters of the Russian World can still serve in Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior in spite of the recertification of ex-officers of Berkut and other units.

As of now, we published factual information about five ex-members of Ukraine’s disbanded Berkut special unit who were not only offered asylum and citizenship by Belarus’ dictatorial regime but also hired to defend this regime.

Thus, Lukashenka’s regime stands side by side with the aggressor state of Russia that perceives democratic transformations in Ukraine and Belarus as an existential threat. It is for neutralizing this threat that Russia has integrated most of the ex-Berkut fugitives into its repressive apparatus.

The above number of identified ex-Berkut officers in Belarus is not final; there are more of them to be covered in the next parts of our investigation.

Dzianis Ivashyn, Editor, InformNapalm Belarus

Translated by Oleksand Ivanov, eidted by  Artem Velichko. Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! InformNapalm materials are available under a public license Creative Commons Attribution, CC BY. The condition for using our materials is a hyperlink to the original source in the first or second paragraph of your publication. InformNapalm social media pages:
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