Sus­pect ‘is not kind of per­son who would throw a grenade into crowd’

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY AL­LI­SON QUINN AND ALYONA ZHUK [email protected] AND [email protected]

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)

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