Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. He was Visiting Scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Ivan Katchanovski is the author, among other things, of Cleft Countries: Regional Political Divisions and Cultures in Post-Soviet Ukraine and Moldova and co-author of Historical Dictionary of Ukraine.
East & West: The mass shooting on the 20th of February 2014, exactly 5 years ago, was the culmination of the Maidan uprising. The day after, Yanukovich left the post of President vacant. The common version is that it was government snipers who shot at protesters. Some even alleged the snipers came in from Russia. What are your conclusions instead?
Prof. Ivan Katchanovski: My studies found that the Maidan massacre of the protestors and the police on February 20, 2014 involved the far right and oligarchic parties, and it was a key element of the violent overthrow of the corrupt and oligarchic but democratically elected government in Ukraine. This mass killing was a successful false flag operation, which was organized and conducted by elements of the Maidan leadership and concealed armed groups in order to win the asymmetric conflict during the “Euromaidan” and seize power in Ukraine.
Various evidence examined in my studies shows that concealed groups of Maidan snipers, which were based in particular in Music Conservatory and the Hotel Ukraina, started the massacre in the early morning on February 20 by targeting Berkut and Internal Troops units on the Maidan itself with live ammunition fire, inflicting their mass casualties, and forcing them to retreat. Then the armed Maidan groups, in particular the same ones, massacred the unsuspecting Maidan protestors from concealed positions. The analysis of circumstances, timing, and locations of specific killings of 49 protestors presents evidence that at least the absolute majority of them were killed from the Maidan-controlled buildings.
My studies presented direct evidence, such as videos, photos, testimonies by 44 wounded Maidan protesters at the trial and investigation and over 200 witness testimonies, concerning groups of the Maidan “snipers” in these buildings and their shooting from these positions in the directions of the protesters at the same time when the protesters were killed and wounded from these directions from the same caliber and types of weapons. My studies and the official investigation in Ukraine have not revealed any evidence that any Russian government snipers massacred the Maidan protesters in Ukraine.
E&W: What is at the moment the state of the official Ukrainian inquiry on the Maidan snipers and what have been its key findings until now?
IK: Five policemen from the Berkut special company were charged with killing 48 out of 49 Maidan protesters on February 20, 2014 and with terrorist act. Their trial is still ongoing. But their Maidan massacre trial revealed testimonies by at least 25 out of 67 wounded Maidan protesters that they were shot from Maidan-controlled buildings or areas, and testimonies by 30 wounded protesters, who stated at this trial and the investigation that they witnessed snipers in those locations or were told about them by other protesters. I complied these testimonies with added English-language subtitles into an online video appendix to my study. The trial also revealed numerous witness testimonies about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings.
The trial also revealed results of forensic medical examinations and examinations of bullets for the investigation. They show that the absolute majority of protesters were shot on February 20 from top, side, and back directions when protesters faced Berkut policemen on similar level on the ground. This is key forensic evidence that protesters were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings in the back and on both sides of them and that Berkut did not massacre them. A forensic ballistic examination conducted by government institute experts on the prosecution request with use of an automatic computer-based IBIS-TAIS system in January 2015 found that bullets extracted from killed protesters, trees, and the Hotel Ukraina rooms did not match police database of bullet samples from any 7.62×39 caliber Kalashnikov assault rifles of members of the entire Kyiv Berkut regiment, including the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters.
No one is convicted for any killings of the protesters and the police on the Maidan five years after the massacre, which was the most documented case of mass killing in history. Investigation simply denies that there were snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and not investigates them in spite of overwhelming evidence revealed by its own investigation and the trial and in spite of publicly available evidence. The Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigation determined based on their testimonies and investigative experiments that almost half of protesters (77 out of 157) were wounded on February 20 from other sectors than the Berkut police and did not charge anyone with their shooting. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was one of the top Maidan politicians, declared that the investigation of the Maidan massacre is completed. This is consistent with the cover-up of Maidan snipers and stonewalling of the investigation of this mass killing.
E&W: If your conclusions are correct, if the shooting was organized by the soon to become “revolutionary government”, wouldn’t this change everything with regards to the ensuing crisis that followed in Ukraine? If the people who came to power are the people who organized the shooting, wouldn’t their government lose any sort of legitimacy? And why would Western governments, who are likely to possess intelligence on this gravest of tragedies (and whose intelligence personnel may have come across your paper), be willing to cooperate with the current Ukrainian authorities?
IK: Yes, this means that oligarchic and far right politicians and their organizations who were involved in this massacre in various capacities and who gained power in Ukraine as a result of this mass killing have a problem with legitimacy. They are criminals who participated in the one of the most serious types of crimes by murdering their own protesters and the police in order to seize power in Ukraine by violent and unconstitutional means. They try to shore legitimacy by misrepresenting themselves with help of massive government and media propaganda as defenders of Ukraine and of Maidan protesters and as democrats and adherents of Western values.
But this mass killing ultimately led to the violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the civil war in Donbas, the covert Russian military intervention in Donbas, and the conflict between the West and Russia. My research suggests that therefore these oligarchic and gar right politicians and organizations bear along with Russia, separatists in Crimea and Donbas, and the Western governments major responsibility for the de facto break-up of Ukraine and the civil war in Ukraine. These conflicts and Russian military interventions in Crimea and Donbas and the Russian annexation of Crimea the ultimately escalated from the Maidan massacre, and my research suggests that they could have been avoided if this mass killing were not perpetrated.
Misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre by the Western governments and their support for mass murders in power and silence concerning its failed investigation is puzzling. The Western governments’ de facto supported the violent overthrow of the Ukrainian government by means of the Maidan massacre. The Western government agencies almost definitely know about actual organizers and perpetrators of the Maidan massacre. They do not disclose this for geopolitical reasons, because the current government of Ukraine is useful in the Western policy of containment of Russia. This policy is not unique in the case of Ukraine since the Western democracies supported and currently support various foreign governments and government leaders involved in numerous political killings, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain now, and such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, and Indonesia during the Cold War.
My studies did not find any specific such evidence of the Western governments’ involvement in the Maidan massacre, and I think that such direct involvement is unlikely. But many relevant documents or other evidence concerning this mass killing in Ukraine are not public. Because of various evidence of US government backing for the Maidan opposition, its involvement in the regime change in Ukraine, and the Maidan government selection and policy decisions, and its past and ongoing in the case of Venezuela record of backing or organizing violent government overthrows in other countries, the question whether there was any US or any other Western governments involvement in the violent overthrow of the Ukrainian government remains open.
E&W: Your study was originally presented at the Chair of Ukrainian Studies Seminar at the University of Ottawa. What was the reaction to your investigation in academic circles and in general among the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada? Has your reputation as a scholar been affected? What do you reply to those saying that you are just spewing the Kremlin’s propaganda?
IK: Reputation of scholars is measured by academic criteria such as publications, presentations, and citations of their studies. My studies of the Maidan massacre were accepted for presentations at the top conferences in my field, such as the Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco in 2015 and in Boston in 2018, the 2017 World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities in New York, and the “Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956” conference by the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies in Uppsala in Sweden in 2018. Summary of my study finding was already published by a top scholarly press in a book edited by two Canadian political scientists. I also was invited to review manuscripts by more than dozen peer-reviewed journals and book presses.
My Maidan massacre studies, like many other my studies, are already cited by several dozens of publications, the absolute majority of them academic. And only a few citations are negative. My Google Scholar and Scopus citations indexes show that citations of my research increased significantly since I first presented my study in October 2014, even though Google Scholar missed about half of citations of my most widely cited Maidan massacre study. Scopus generally does not include books, and I published four of them. But these indexes put me as one of the most cited political scientists in the world who primarily specialize in the Ukrainian politics.
But it is replication of academic studies that is the golden standard of academic research. My original Maidan massacre study findings were already replicated by an American political scientist, by videos, numerous witness testimonies and media reports, and by revelations from the Maidan massacre trial and the investigation in Ukraine. I am confident that major findings of my Maidan massacre studies would be also replicated by other scholars and by future revelations concerning the Maidan massacre.
My academic studies are not written to conform to views of any person, groups of people, or organizations. My undergraduate thesis, which suggested that the Soviet system was bound to collapse, and my doctoral dissertation and subsequent publications and presentations, which suggested a real possibility of break-up and civil war in Ukraine, were also often dismissed at the time for political reasons. If I wanted cheap popularity and media publicity in the West and Ukraine, I would have written that Putin organized the Maidan massacre. But, as a scholar, I cannot falsify data and findings of my research for political or any other reasons.
E&W: Your study has been published more than two years ago. Why was it not given more prominence in mainstream media?
With a few notable exceptions, there is virtually no mainstream media reporting in the US and other Western countries about my studies of the Maidan massacre even though I was interviewed by many of American, British, and Canadian top media outlets concerning my other studies, such as the war in Donbas, the separation and the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the OUN involvement in mass murder. I also gave interviews concerning my research on this crucial mass killing to four TV channels in Ukraine.
The coverage of the Maidan massacre by the mainstream media in the West involves gross misrepresentation of this crucial case of mass killing. This misrepresentation is done by publishing fake news about the massacre and by not reporting major revelations about Maidan snipers, involvement of the Maidan leadership, and cover-up and stonewalling of the investigation. Since the politics of media coverage of post-communist countries, in particular Ukraine, by American and Canadian media is another area of my research, I attribute such misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre to politics, namely that Ukraine is a US client state and that the Western governments do not question publicly the dominant Maidan massacre narrative since the media coverage often follows the narratives advanced by their respective governments.