[JURIST] An inquiry by the interim Ukrainian government on Wednesday implicated members of the special Berkut riot police [BBC backgrounder] in the deaths of 76 anti-government protesters in Kiev in February. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov presented initial findings [BBC report] before reporters indicating twelve members of the elite police force as snipers and arrested three on suspicion of shooting deaths. Avakov also identified Maj Dmytro Sadovnyk a commander of a Berkut unit suspected of the shooting death of seventeen protesters. Most of the protester shootings occured near the main protest camp on Independence Square. Ukrainian Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko has accused Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) [government profile] operatives of coordinating operations against protesters. In addition to allegations of Russian involvement in suppressing protests, a top security official for the interim government accused ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s [ BBC profile; JURIST news archive] government of hiring [WP report] gangs of thugs to terrorize protesters and opposition groups.
The ongoing conflict [BBC timeline] in Ukraine has reinvigorated fears of Cold War Era politics and increased tensions between Russia and the West. Last week both the US Senate and the House of Representatives approved nearly identical bills [JURIST report] that would send a $1 billion aid package to Ukraine and place new sanctions on Russia. Also last week the UN General Assembly [official website] approved a resolution [JURIST report] declaring the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine invalid. The resolution calls upon all UN states, international organizations and specialty agencies not to recognize any change in status of the Crimean region despite the referendum [JURIST report]. The European Union last month imposed [JURIST report] new sanctions against 11 senior Russian politicians, including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The EU imposed the sanctions on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] finalized legislation making Crimea officially part of Russia.