A former Berkut commander now wanted in Ukraine for crimes against protesters is spotted working for Moscow's riot police
Footage recorded by the television station Dozhd at a protest on Monday in Moscow reveals a riot control officer who appears to be Sergey Kusyuk, a former commander of the “Berkut” special police force in Kiev, notorious for its brutality and dissolved in 2014, after the Maidan Revolution. Kusyuk is wanted in Ukraine for his role in the violent police crackdown on protesters in Kiev in November 2013. Meduza reviews Kusyuk’s checkered past and how he ended up in Russia.
Ukrainian journalists recognized Kusyuk in footage from Monday’s protest at Tverskaya Street in Moscow. In footage from the demonstration, the man in question — a colonel in Russia’s National Guard — is identical to Kusyuk, though there’s no surname visible on his uniform. While serving in the Ukrainian police force in 2013, Kusyuk also held the rank of colonel. In the video recorded at Tverskaya, Kusyuk appears to be coordinating the actions of Moscow riot police, as they managed and dispersed protesters.
Russia’s National Guard has refused to comment officially on Sergey Kusyuk’s possible role in the police response to Monday’s protest in Moscow.
Back in Ukraine, Kusyuk is charged with exceeding his authority as a police officer and illegally obstructing a political demonstration. In June 2015, he was placed on a wanted list, and the Ukrainian Attorney General announced that Kusyuk had relocated to Russia, adding that he might have found work with the Russian police (and later the Russian National Guard, following reforms that transferred the riot police out of the Interior Ministry). Riot police in Moscow, moreover, have openly welcomed former Berkut officers, hiring them at the same ranks they enjoyed in Ukraine, before the Berkut were liquidated.
Colonel Kusyuk is a key figure in Ukraine’s investigation into the crackdown on the Euromaidan movement. In 2013, Kusyuk served as a Berkut regiment commander and allegedly ordered the first violent crackdown on Euromaidan activists in Kiev on the night of November 30, transforming the protests into a clash with police that eventually escalated to a full-blown revolution.
The next day, on December 1, 2013, skirmishes broke out near the presidential administration building. There are unconfirmed reports that Kusyuk may have actually led a group of provocateurs against police as a pretense for a new offensive against the demonstrators. Kusyuk denies these accusations.