KYIV — Ukraine's new leaders say they will release a preliminary report this week on the February 20 sniper shootings of anti-government protesters in Kyiv's Independence Square. Protest leaders worry the investigation is flawed.
Boris Aseyev, a 45-year-old web designer, explained how he was shot three times in the central square known as the Maidan.
He said he had camped out for three months along with thousands of others who were trying to oust Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. On February 20, he was one of hundreds of protesters wounded in the shooting that erupted and lasted most of the day.
Two rounds from an AK-47 tore into his leg. The third hit the same leg, he said, but appeared to have been fired by a sniper.
Aseyev was one of the fortunate ones. At least 53 anti-government protesters were killed on February 20, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Health. Many died within minutes from rounds fired by expert marksmen that targeted the head, neck or heart.
The shootings have become a major dispute in a propaganda war between supporters of the ousted Yanukovych, including the Kremlin, the Maidan revolutionaries and Ukraine's interim government.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Kremlin allegations that the snipers were either right-wing extremists or foreign mercenaries hired by the Maidan protesters seeking to discredit Yanukovych, who fled Kyiv the next day.
Ukraine's new Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, formerly an opposition member of parliament, said he has no doubt who gave the orders to shoot protesters.
"It was a decision of Yanukovych and his government. It is my opinion and my feeling," he said.
According to Petrenko, a probe being overseen by the country's new prosecutor general and new head of Ukraine's intelligence service, the SBU, is making progress.
"Our police and general prosecutor make all the scenes and I think that during some few weeks we will have some first answers about these questions," he said. "The first question is who gave them the command to shoot."
But many of the Maidan leaders are critical of the investigation. Many suspect the SBU was involved in the shootings. Photographs published over the weekend by The Daily Beast web site show anti-terrorist and Special Forces units arming and preparing themselves on the morning of February 20 at the SBU headquarters just three blocks from the Maidan.
Olga Bogomolets, one of the Maidan leaders and a medical doctor who treated the wounded on February 20, says there are problems with the SBU investigating itself. She wants outsiders to oversee the probe.
"I just think we have to look for truth and we have to ask for independent organization expert group who will check the information and who will give the Ukrainian people the true answer with no lie," Bogomolets explained, "because we are tired to live with the corruption and without truth."
Justice Minister Petrenko, who was with the protesters on February 20, understands the criticism but says he has faith in the probe.
"I don't think that it is a problem, because you know that in the Ukrainian parliament, we made (a) special commission," he noted. "The main purpose of this commission is to control police and control the system of prosecutors in the investigation of all these crimes."
More than 100 people died and more than 500 were wounded in the months of protests that led to Yanukovych fleeing the country and an interim government taking office. Most were protesters, but several police officers were also among the casualties.
If the investigation into the February 20 deaths doesn't satisfy Maidan protesters, many say they will start demonstrating again -- this time against the country's new leaders.