Suspect ‘is not kind of person who would throw a grenade into crowd’
The man suspected of tossing a grenade that killed three National Guardsmen on Aug. 31 in front of parliament is described by friends as a Ukrainian patriot who fought valiantly against Russian-separatist forces in the east.
The suspect, 21-year-old Ihor Humeniuk of the Interior Ministry’s volunteer Sich Battalion, has denied throwing the grenade.
One who served with Humeniuk in war, Roman Malyuk, said his friend is “always very helpful and eager to share his knowledge and experience” and “is not the kind of person who would throw a grenade into a crowd.”
The bloodshed took place during a protest organized the Svoboda
Party, which lost its seats in parliament in last year’s parliamentary elections, and other right-wing groups.
Video footage of the protest shows the suspect taking the explosive device out of his bag and tossing it towards the guards. So who is Humeniuk? His friends, especially those who fought beside him in Russia’s war in the east, describe him as an exceptional and devoted patriot.
Gennady Dubrov of the volunteer Carpathian Sich Battalion served alongside Humeniuk in Pisky, not far from the Donetsk Airport that Ukrainian soldiers abandoned in January after months of fierce fighting.
Dubrov also said that Humeniuk participated in the EuroMaidan Revolution that prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee. He described his friend as a “normal, calm person, brave, and someone you can always rely on at a critical moment.”
Dubrov said Humeniuk is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He said that, while it is clear Humeniuk threw something, “it could have just been a stun grenade; the blast didn’t look like it was from a real grenade.”
Sydir Kizin, Humeniuk’s lawyer, made a similar argument at a briefing in Kyiv on Sept. 1, disputing comments by police that video evidence of the attack proves Humeniuk was the person who threw a live grenade. According to Kizin, the videos of the attack released by the media may not be authentic and don’t constitute proof of Humeniuk’s guilt.
Kizin also disputed police statements that police had found another grenade in Humeniuk’s possession at the time of his arrest.
“The Interior Ministry, instead of handling the case, is handling the information space,” Kizin said.
Police said that Humeniuk admitted guilt during questioning, but his lawyer said the confession was made under duress and that his client denies responsibility for the deaths.
Zoryan Shkiryak, an aide to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said in an interview with the Ukraina television channel on Sept. 1 that there were “no doubts” Humeniuk had thrown the grenade, citing videos. “But only a court can issue the final verdict,” Shkiryak said.
To soldiers, Humeniuk’s case is about much more than just a protest turned violent.
It’s about the thousands of soldiers who risk their lives in the east on a daily basis and return home to a capital where they feel alienated and misunderstood by their political leaders.
“It’s terrible, but it could have been worse,” Cristian Jereghi, a former member of the volunteer Kyivska-Rus Battalion. He spent several months at the war front. “Those who come back from the front, with the exception of rare cases when a family is waiting at home – they return with a sense of being used. Three dead. I’m afraid this won’t be the last time.”
Humeniuk, from Kamenets-Podilsky in western Ukraine, took part in the EuroMaidan Revolution from the beginning and jumped at the chance to defend the nation against Russia’s war.
Recently, Humeniuk’s friends said he wanted life to return to normalcy.
Malyuk, who served with Humeniuk in the Carpathian Sich Battalion, said his friend “wanted to go home, settle down, and get a job.”
Volodymyr Nazarenko, a volunteer with the Kyivsky-Rus Battalion who also served with Humeniuk, said his comrade proved his devotion to Ukraine by serving more than eight months in Pisky and near the Donetsk Airport – “the most dangerous and most violent” positions in the east.
“Not every soldier agrees to hold positions there. That says a lot about him as a citizen, that he was ready to sacrifice his life and health for the sake of Ukraine’s future,” Nazarenko told the Kyiv Post. “Personally I can’t believe or wrap my head around the idea that he did this. He was a soldier of honor.”
Few of his comrades with whom the Kyiv Post spoke knew much about his personal life.
Nazarenko knew only that Humeniuk was not married and had no girlfriend.
Oleksandr Pysarenko, the commander of the Sich Battalion, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Sept. 1 that Humeniuk on Aug. 29 wrote a letter of resignation. “And in private conversations with me, he said he wanted to move to the armed forces of Ukraine,” the battalion commander said.
Tetyana Pecherska, the battalion’s personnel manager, showed a copy of the resignation letter, which noted that Humeniuk had cited “unsatisfactory pay” as his reason for leaving.
While condemning the attack on parliament, Pysarenko had equally positive things to say of Humeniuk, noting that he had never asked to be rotated out of the war zone, unlike many other soldiers.
Pysarenko said he believed that Humeniuk had suffered psychological trauma from combat duty.
Nazarenko agreed. “Every single soldier who has been out there that long has been traumatized more than once,” he said. “The daily shelling is proof enough of that.”
Lera Burlakova, a member of the Sich Battalion, who described Humeniuk as a courageous and devoted fighter, mourned Humeniuk’s arrest.
“On the day of the shooting of the Heavenly Hundred, he was among those running up Instytutska Street. He didn’t die,” she wrote on Facebook.
“So he’s not a hero. Because with us, only the dead can be heroes. And they see how, on the bones of their dead friends, someone is trying to build a country not of dreams but of rotten deals, stupid propaganda and hysteria. On Khreshchatyk, there are ribbons and embroidered shirts and, in the east, explosions and blood,” Burlakova wrote.
Humeniuk’s social media account on Vkontakte is full of not just the usual war selfies with AK-47s, but also pictures and paintings of sunsets, and one unsettling message – his last one before violence erupted near parliament on Aug. 31.
“Battle awaits. Everything else will happen…afterward. Life goes on. War is being waged.”
He was last active on Vkontakte on the morning of Aug. 28.
Ihor Humeniuk, the suspect in the Aug. 31 grenade attack that killed three National Guardsmen, sits in a cell during a Sept. 2 court hearing on his pre-trial confinement. (Ukrafoto)
Video footage of the protest shows a man believed to be Ihor Humeniuk carrying a rucksack and wearing a mask shortly before the grenade was thrown. (Radio Svoboda)