- InformNapalm.org (English) - https://informnapalm.org/en -

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

We continue to disclose new information about the former policemen of the infamous disbanded Berkut Ukrainian riot police force in the service of the dictatorship in Russia and Belarus.

In the second part, the geography of the investigation expands significantly. Former Berkut policemen were found not only in Minsk, but also in other regions. As part of this investigation, we for the first time also provide information about the former Berkut officer from Odesa who now serves in the Minsk OMON.

Read more: Special investigation: what does Berkut defend in Belarus? [1]Part I [1]

Not only Minsk

Through the social network accounts of Dmytro Antsupov mentioned in the first part of the investigation [1], his colleague, also a Mykolaiv Berkut officer Volodymyr Didyk was found on the territory of Belarus. Antsupov called Didyk a colleague in his OK account.

Didyk Volodymyr Volodymyrovych (transliterated from Russian: Didyk Vladimir Vladimirovich, Ukrainian: Дідик Володимир Володимирович)

 

Born on August 3, 1988 in Antonivka, Novoodessky Raion, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine. He graduated from the Mykolaiv Polytechnic College. Having completed his conscript military service, he enrolled in Berkut special-purpose police company in Mykolaiv. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he and his family fled to Belarus. He presumably serves in the OMON (Belarus riot police special force) in Gomel.

He was identified in the group photographs with colleagues from the Mykolaiv Berkut.

Didyk is marked with a circle. To the left and to the right of him there are subjects of the first part of of our investigation, Minsk OMON officers Serhii Panasenko and Mykola Stohorniak.

Judging by the shoulder marks in the photo, Didyk had the rank of police sergeant at that moment.

Also, Didyk was found on the wedding picture of Artem Melnychenko, another Berkut policeman from Mykolaiv, who in 2017 resigned from the law enforcement agencies.

Didyk stands in the center

Unlike the majority of the Mykolaiv Berkut officers who fled to Belarus, Didyk lives not in the capital or its neighborhood, but in Gomel.

Didyk with his daughter during the Victory Day festive procession on Sovetskaya street in Gomel, May 9, 2016. The Gomel House of Trade Unions is visible in the background

In the course of OSINT investigation, the name of Didyk was found [2] on the list of citizens in need of better housing conditions in the Zheleznodorozhny district of Gomel.

By the decision of the district administration of June 6, 2017, he was enrolled [3] in the general queue. The online service [4] of the Gomel Regional Executive Committee shows that as of July 2020, Didyk was in the housing queue under No. 14370.

This official information officially confirms Didyk’s date of birth.

The terms of the queuing for housing require annual confirmation of the status with local authorities at the place of registration. It is interesting that even the full address of the former Berkut officer who lived in one of the dorms of the Selmashevskoye residency complex is open for public access at the administration of the Zheleznodorozhny district of Gomel.

Didyk in Berkut uniform and gear

 

According to Belarusian legislation, citizens registered in a dorm and queuing for housing must actually live at the place of registration. To confirm this, the executive committee even requests written evidence from neighbors or the dorm warden. So, Didyk lived in the Zheleznodorozhny district of Gomel at least from 2017 until recently.

In the fall of 2020, Didyk dropped out of the general queue. The most likely reason is that he obtained housing at work. The Belarusian law allows queuing for housing at the place of residence and at work at the same time. In addition, employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have a preferential right for housing. It is also known that after 5 to 7 years of service in the OMON, the policemen receive their own housing. [5]

A story that happened in Gomel with a Ukrainian migrant Yevhen Kirichenko, may be connected with Didyk. In 2014, due to the threat of Russian offensive, Kirichenko took his family from the Donetsk Oblast to Belarus.

Yevhen Kirichenko / Photo from Facebook account

 

On the evening of August 11, 2020, Kirichenko was detained by the Gomel OMON in the center of Gomel as a “protester” and placed in a Gazel van. When Kirichenko said that he was Ukrainian, he was transferred to a prisoner transport vehicle with 8-10 people in black uniforms without insignia.

On August 11, 2020, mass arrests of protesters and random people took place in Gomel / Video from gomel.today

 

According to Kirichenko, he was harassed, asked how much he was paid and who his coordinator was, then they knocked him to the floor and severely beat him. One of the OMON officers asked him: “So, maybe it was you, bastard, who burned me on the Maidan?” Then Kirichenko was again transferred to the Gazel van and taken to the Gomel Central District Police Department where the torture continued. According to the court’s decision, Kirichenko was kept in a temporary detention center for several days.

Operation of the Belarusian riot police to suppress protests in Gomel, August 11, 2020 / Video frame from gomel.today

Despite the appeal against the court decision and the medical examination on the fact of the beating, initiated by the Investigative Committee, Kirichenko was summoned to the Office of Citizenship and Migration and from there he was again taken to the pre-trial detention center. After 14 days of detention, he was deported from Belarus with an entry ban for the next three years.

Perhaps Didyk was that OMON officer who harassed Kirichenko about the Maidan in the prisoner transportation van. To find out, the author of this investigation contacted Kirichenko. According to him, the detainees were put in a prisoner transportation van with the particular aim of beating them up.

Brutal beating up of detainees in prisoner transportation vans / frame of a video [6] from tut.by.

According to Kirichenko, he did not see the faces of the OMON officers in the vehicle: they were wearing balaclavas, some were wearing helmets. In addition, the detainees were not allowed to look in the direction of the policemen, therefore he could not identify the OMON officer.

We appeal to the readers having any additional relevant information to contact the author of the investigation. Anonymity is guaranteed.

 

“Oh, Odesa, a pearl by the sea”

Another policeman of the disbanded Ukrainian Berkut Serhii Kiminchidzhi was found in the ranks of the Minsk OMON. It was established that he had previously served in a separate special-purpose police battalion in Odesa. He is the first Berkut officer from Odesa found among the Belarusian police.

Kiminchidzhi Serhii Petrovych (transliterated from Russian:Kiminchidzhi Sergey Petrovich, Ukrainian: Кімінчижи Сергій Петрович)

 

Born on August 4, 1983 in Vasilevka, Bolgrad Raion, Odesa Oblast (Ukraine). He lived in Vygoda, Biliaivsky Raion of the same oblast. After demobilization from the conscript service, he entered service with Berkut special-purpose police battalion of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Odesa Oblast. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he fled to Belarus. Lukashenka regime granted him citizenship and hired him to serve in the OMON of the Main Directorate of the Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee.

Through in-depth open source intelligence (OSINT), Kiminchidzhi was found [7] among the Berkut officers who participated in outdoor open days at the Yuri Gagarin Odesa Children’s Health Camp.

Kiminchidzhi (center left) during a demonstration performance of the’Berkut policemen from Odesa / odessitua.com

 

The event was organized in early August 2013 by the Juvenile Criminal Police Department of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast. In addition to Berkut policemen, employees of the canine unit were also invited. Kiminchidzhi demonstrated some basic techniques of hand-to-hand fight as well as weapons and special equipment available to Berkut officers.

Kiminchidzhi demonstrates the Fort-500, a 12-gauge pump-action rifle. Many participants of the Revolution of Dignity, including Belarusian citizen Mikhail Zhiznevsky, were killed with this weapon / Photo: odessitua.com

 

It is known that during the events of the Revolution of Dignity on February 19, 2014, Odesa Berkut policemen broke through the cordon set up by Odesa activists at the battalion’s permanent deployment station and left for Kyiv in two buses. [8] On February 21, member of Ukrainian parliament Anatoly Gritsenko oversaw the withdrawal of Berkut groups from Kyiv [9]. Odesa Berkut policemen directly participated in the events of February 20, 2014 in Kyiv, one of them was even wounded on Instytutska Street.

Special force unit policemen firing to kill the demonstrators. Kyiv, February 20, 2014 / RFE / RL

 

Several episodes of detention and prosecution of Belarusian activists are connected with the service of Kiminchidzhi in the Minsk OMON.

On April 3, 2018, the famous Belarusian anarchist Viachaslau Kasinerau was detained in Minsk. The day before, he took part in a picket where he demanded to decriminalize soft drugs in small doses and to adopt appropriate amendments to one of the most repressive articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus – Article 328 on illegal drug trafficking.

Viachaslau Kasinerau / Photo from his FB account

 

According to [10] Kasinerau’s wife Marina Nasenko he was detained in the street by an officer of the Moscow District Police Department in Minsk and two OMON policemen in civilian clothes. One of them did not introduce himself, the surname of the second one was Kiminchidzhi, according to his documents, The capture group put Kasinerau in a van [11], which had been standing under his windows since the morning. The next day, April 4, Kasinerau was fined under the no less repressive article 23.34 of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus.

The second incident is related to the administrative case against the deputy chairman of the Conservative Christian party – Belarussian People Front and BPF Vozrozhdenie Sergei Popkov. The case was considered on January 10, 2020 in the Sovetsky District Court in Minsk. During the trial, Kiminchidzhi and another OMON policeman, Viktar Martynchik, testified [12] that on December 21, 2019, in October Square in Minsk, Popkov was shouting slogans and disturbing public order. On this day, one of the actions in support of the independence of Belarus took place.

Minsk, October Square, December 21, 2019

 

Despite the fact that Popkov brought all the necessary evidence of his innocence to the court, the court decision was made based on the testimony of the OMON policemen, Kiminchidzhi among them. As a result, Popkov was sentenced to an administrative fine of 20 basic units (BYN 540).

The administrative case file contains the protocol of the interview of Kiminchidzhi:

 

This document fully confirms not only the name, date and place of birth of the subject of this investigation, but also the fact of his service in the Minsk OMON.

The next high-profile incident involving Kiminchidzhi was the detention of “DJs of change” Kiryl Galanau and Vladzislau Sakalousky. Kiminchidzhi testified at their trial as well.

Vladzislau Sakalousky and Kiryl Galanau, Minsk, Kievsky square, August 6, 2020 / Nadezhda Buzhan, nn.by

 

On August 6, 2020, the Minsk authorities decided to hold an open day of the Kaleidoscope of Art art school in Kievsky Square, which was also one of the sites permitted for campaigning. On the same day, the previously announced campaign meeting of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya with voters was to take place in the Peoples’ Friendship Park. However, despite the cultural event deliberately appointed by the authorities, Tsikhanouskaya urged everyone to come to Kievsky Square. Thousands of opponents of the Lukashenka regime gathered there. Sound technicians Sakalousky and Galanau, who were in charge of the musical program of the state event, played the song “I Want Change!” by Kino band in support of the protesters. They were detained on the same day.

Kiminchidzhi testified that he and another policeman, Ruslan Kovalchuk, had followed and detained Sakalousky and Galanau, who, allegedly, resisted arrest. According to the testimony of Kiminchidzhi and Kovalchuk, the OMON policemen were in civilian clothes during the arrest, they placed the detainees in a Volkswagen Transporter van, and took them to the Central District Police Department in Minsk.

OMON officers Kiminchidzhi (left) and Kovalchuk (right) are detaining the “DJs of change”, August 6, 2020, Minsk / frame from the video of the Nexta Telegram channel

 

Based on these and other testimonies, Sakalousky and Galanau were sentenced to a total of 10 days of administrative arrest for minor hooliganism and resistance to the police.

The administrative offense ruling No. 6-2342/2343/2020 against Galanau not only further confirms the fact that ex-Berkut officer Kiminchidzhi served in the Minsk OMON, but also contains information about his position and rank.

 

According to the document, Kiminchidzhi is the commander of the OMON group of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee and has the rank of police captain.

What was the main motive for the sudden flight of Kiminchidzhi from Ukraine to Belarus?

His account on the VK social network [13] overflowing with Russian propaganda, helps shed some light on this. Kiminchidzhi actively shared posts not only from VK public group Antimaidan, but also from collaborator public groups created during the Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine such as Committee for the Liberation of Odessa – Antimaidan, People’s Druzhina of Odessa (Antimaidan) ND, Polite people, Army, Russia.

At the end of June 2014, Kiminchidzhi, in a repost, [14] calls on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Guard of Ukraine not to participate in hostilities in the Donbas, effectively not to resist the military aggression of Russia.

The investigative authorities of Ukraine should investigate the activities of Kiminchidzhi as one of the commanders of Odesa Berkut during the Russia-inspired violence in Odesa in the spring of 2014. They can combine this investigation with the case of his immediate superior, Dmytro Fuchedzhi.

In the spring of 2014, Fuchedzhi was the deputy head of the Odesa regional police force and headed the public security police. He was dismissed on suspicion of collaboration with the Antimaidan militants, who had provoked the bloody clashes in Odesa on May 2, which killed 48 people. Hiding from the investigation, Fuchedzhi fled [15] to the territory of the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic controlled by Russia. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine put him on the wanted list, [15] but the Russian Federation granted Fuchedzhi citizenship [16] and refused to extradite him at the request of the Ukrainian authorities.

Colonel Dmytro Fuchedzhi (right) at the head of Antimaidan armed militants procession, May 2, 2014, Odesa

 

Apparently the support of the pro-Russian forces and the beginning of their defeat in Ukraine made Kiminchidzhi suddenly leave his relatives and friends, as well as give up a long career in the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine and flee to Belarus.

During the active phase of the hybrid Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Berkut officers’ cooperation with the invaders was massive. This was particularly conspicuous in Crimea and the Donbas.

 

Temporarily occupied Crimea

There is a social media account of Olexander Bitkov among the contacts of many Mykolaiv Berkut officers. Serhii Havryliak, involved in the 2017 investigation, [17] calls him a colleague. The account of the events from Bitkov, who is now hiding in the occupied Crimea, suggests that the Mykolaiv Berkut took the most active part in direct clashes with the Maidan defenders, in an attempt to storm it and suppress the Revolution. His words also explain the main motive for the Berkut officers to flee.

Bitkov Olexandr Serhiyovych (transliterated from Russian: Bitkov Alexander Sergeyevich, Ukrainian: Бітков Олександр Сергійович)

Born on December 9, 1985 in Mikhailivka, Nizhnegorsk Raion, Crimean Oblast, Ukraine. He lived in Myrne villiage, Vitovsky (formerly Oktyabrsky) Raion, Mykolaiv Oblast. He joined Berkut police force in Mykolaiv Oblast after his coscript military service.

His VK social network account [18] is full of posts about practical shooting. It is possible that Bitkov had the position of a sniper or sharp shooter in the Mykolaiv unit of Berkut.

In November 2013 Bitkov was transferred to Kyiv as part of the Mykolaiv Berkut unit. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he fled to temporarily occupied Crimea.

Presumably, he served in the Berkut OMON of the Main Directorate of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in the occupied Crimea.

In the spring of 2014, Bitkov took part in several propaganda TV shows, products of the information war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

One of the shows titled “The Russian Question” is anchored by Konstantin Zatulin, head of the Institute of CIS Countries and one of the architects of the so-called “Russian Spring” – a series of special operations in the hybrid war of Russia against Ukraine in 2014. According to Bitkov [19], the Mykolaiv Berkut took part in almost all clashes on the Maidan. He even described in detail his injury allegedly from a firearm, although medical documents, in his own words, indicated that Bitkov was wounded with a stick or a stone.

It is noteworthy how Bitkov explains the motives for his escape to Crimea on Zatulin’s show, saying he feared possible persecution for the actions of the police force on the Maidan. In addition, he told about the material support from Zatulin Foundation We Are All Berkut, which is aimed at supporting collaborators who defected from the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine as well as militants of the so-called Crimean self-defense.

A frame from The Russian Question story about the activities of the We Are All Berkut foundation.

 

In addition to Zatulin, other notable Russian chauvinists took part in this Foundation: Putin’s personal friend, biker Alexander Zaldostanov (“Surgeon”), chairman and permanent member of the jingoist Izborsk Club (community of supporters of Vladimir Putin and the Russian expansion) Alexander Prokhanov, propagandist journalist Mikhail Leontyev, representatives of the occupation authorities of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov and Alexey Chaly, as well as the former maverick member of Ukrainian parliament from the Party of Regions, an accomplice of the Russian invaders Oleg Tsarev. Formally, the foundation was established by the Institute of CIS Countries, whereas Sergey Tkachuk, press secretary of Putin’s assistant Sergey Glazyev, was appointed its executive director.

It is Zatulin, Glazyev and Tkachuk who feature in the conversations intercepted and published by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine. On these tapes, they discuss the coordination of the actions of Russian and local militants on the territory of Ukraine within the framework of the Russian Spring special operation.

Bitkov was also invited to participate in the Live Air propaganda talk show on the state TV channel Russia 1, where he described the capture of the October Palace in Kyiv by his unit [20] during violent clashes and the storming of Kyiv Maidan on February 18, 2014.

It follows from these testimonies that the Mykolaiv Berkut was one of the most active units in the bloody crackdown on the people’s protests. The mass flight of the Mykolaiv Berkut militants to Belarus, Russia and the occupied Crimea can be fully explained by the desire to escape responsibility for their actions on the Maidan.

It is established that after the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, another Mykolaiv Berkut officer, Olexandr Popov, left for the territory of Crimea.

Popov Olexandr Mykolayovych (transliterated from Russian: Popov Alexander, Nikolayevich, Ukrainian: Попов Олександр Миколайович)

Born on May 29, 1989 in Ochakiv, Mykolaiv Oblast. From 2007 to 2009 he served in the 79th Separate Air Assault brigade (military unit A0224, stationed in Mykolaiv). After demobilization, he was recruited to the Berkut special police force battalion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in the Mykolaiv Oblast. In November 2013, he was transferred to Kyiv with the Mykolaiv unit of Berkut. After the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, he fled to the occupied Crimea. Until recently, he has resided with his family in Sevastopol.

Popov was identified in a group photo of the Mykolaiv Berkut task force. The photo was taken on Hrushevskoho Street, near the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, during the events of the Revolution of Dignity.

Popov is marked in the picture

 

Some other officers of the Mykolaiv Berkut also fled to the territory of Crimea. Contact list of Serhii Havryliak, subject of our previous investigations, pointed our attention to another fugitive, Olexandr Veriovkyn.

Veriovkyn Olexandr Volodymyrovych (transliterated from Russian: Veriovkin Alexander Vladimirovich, Ukrainian: Вєрьовкін Олександр Володимирович)

Born on August 9, 1990 in Yevgenovka, Snigirevsky Raion, Mykolaiv Oblast. Former serviceman of the Mykolaiv battalion of Berkut. Identified together with Bitkov in a group photograph of the Berkut policemen at the permanent deployment station of the Mykolaiv unit.

The numbers indicate: 1 – Veriovkyn; 2 – Bitkov; 3, 4, 5 – ex-Berkuts in Belarus Panasenko, Didyk and Stohorniak / InformNapalm

 

According to Serhii Havryliak, [21] Veriovkyn resides in the occupied Crimea, presumably in Sevastopol.

After the occupation of Crimea, Russia reorganized the Berkut units in Crimea and incorporated them into the Russian OMON, and then the Russian Guard.

Thus, seven former Berkut officers have already been found on the territory of Belarus, the service of six of them in the Belarus OMON has been documented. This figure is not final, we believe it will grow significantly in the future. In the next part, we will provide important information, which was found with the help of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus.

The second part of the investigation by Dzianis Ivashyn, [22] editor of the Belarusian service of InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community, also published on Novy Chas [23].