Back in May, I wrote an article titled “Was the Maidan Massacre a False Flag?”, which covered the work of Ukrainian-Canadian academic Ivan Katchanovski. Briefly, Katchanovski argues that the massacre of police and protestors on the Maidan Square in February of 2014 was a false flag operation carried out by the Ukrainian far-right.
I concluded my article by saying, “If others believe that Katchanovski is mistaken, they must come forward and their arguments.” Well, Ian Rons did just that. In an article titled “A Load of Ballistics”, he not only argued that Katchanovski is wrong but implied that he is spreading Russian propaganda.
When reading Rons’ article, the first thing that struck me was that he’d only addressed a small part of the evidence that Katchanovski presents in his papers. Aside from quoting two of Katchanovski’s critics, he spends almost the entire article dealing with the issue of ballistics (types of bullets used, angles from which people were shot).
And he admits as much in the conclusion: “I’ll note that there are a lot of other dubious claims made by Katchanovski that I haven’t addressed.” Rons’ stated reason for not addressing these other claims is that “it requires a lot less time, energy and knowledge to make false claims than to refute them”. The fact that Rons ignored most of Katchanovski’s evidence implies that even if his points are correct, there is still a lot of evidence for the ‘false flag theory’.
Another thing that struck me when reading Rons’ article was his rather uncharitable tone. For example, he accuses Katchanovski of playing the “now rather shabby-looking get-out-of-jail-free card”, and suggests that what Katchanovski “hopes” to do is delegitimise the Maidan movement. Needless to say, Katchanovski did not appreciate Rons’ article, describing it as an “open whitewashing of the Maidan mass killers”.
The remainder of this article comprises a point-by-point response. The text is largely based on a 14-page rebuttal that I was sent by Katchanovski. It can therefore be read as his response to Rons – although it was edited by me.
Katchanovski is a political scientist with no expertise in firearm forensics, yet he’s claiming to have analysed the events of 2014 from that perspective and to have published ‘academic’ work on the subject. As far as I can see, none of his work on this topic has passed peer review.
Ian Rons’ article is an open whitewashing of the Maidan massacre and of the far-right elements responsible for it. He has smeared a Ukrainian-Canadian scholar and ignored the overwhelming evidence presented in my studies. Such evidence includes not only forensic evidence revealed by the Maidan massacre trial, but also videos, audio and photographs of Maidan snipers; public confessions by 14 members of the Maidan sniper groups; and testimonies by over 500 witnesses, including the majority of wounded protesters.
The evidence for the false flag theory is beyond any reasonable doubt, and far exceeds what is typically presented in academic studies. However, Rons reduces the evidence to forensics and then misrepresents that evidence.
My studies of the Maidan massacre have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and a book by a top academic press. I have also presented them at several top conferences in my field. I am in the process of finishing a book-length manuscript about the Maidan massacre for an academic press. My video appendixes – with synchronized videos of the massacre, as well as testimonies of trial witnesses and other evidence – are publicly available on my YouTube page and without age verification on my academic website.
[Katchanovski’s arguments] fall into the general narrative that Ukraine’s recent history can only be assessed in terms of, and is only explicable as a result of, neo-Nazism… Russia has been advancing these claims – along with others – as a justification for what is now being credibly described as genocide.
This is false and slanderous. In fact, my 2020 article in Journal of Labor and Society concludes as follows:
Contrary to the narrative by Russian and separatist politicians and the media, and the Yanukovych government, the Euromaidan was not a “fascist coup” and the Maidan government was not a “fascist junta” because the neo-Nazi organizations did not have dominant roles among the Ukrainian far-right. The far-right organizations were involved in the violent overthrow of the Yanukovych government and in the Maidan governments in the alliance with oligarchic Maidan parties and leaders.
Katchanovski is a political scientist with no expertise in firearm forensics, yet he’s claiming to have analysed the events of 2014 from that perspective and to have published ‘academic’ work on the subject.
For my latest paper, I analyzed several hundred hours of video recordings of the Maidan massacre trials, along with over 2,500 court decisions. I also examined the testimonies of wounded protesters, relatives of those protesters, prosecution and defence witnesses, and top officials from the Yanukovych Government. In addition, I analysed the results of forensic ballistic and medical examinations and investigative experiments – as well as videos and photos of the Maidan massacre made public during the trial.
The video appendices to my paper include testimonies of wounded protesters and other witnesses; relevant social media posts; and synchronized segments of American, Belgian, Belarusian, British, Finish, French, Dutch, German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian TV footage.
The Maidan massacre trials and investigations revealed that four killed and several dozen wounded policemen, as well as the majority of 49 killed and 157 wounded protesters, were killed by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings.
Videos presented at the trial showed that, in the majority of cases, the exact times protestors were hit did not coincide with the exact times Berkut officers were discharging their weapons. Forensic medical examinations determined that the overwhelming majority of protesters were shot from steep directions, and from the sides or back. Forensic examinations of bullet holes by government experts indicated that Berkut policemen were shooting above the protesters at snipers in the Hotel Ukraina.
What’s more, there is evidence of a cover-up and stonewalling on the part of post-Maidan governments. In fact, the prosecution denied there were any snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings, despite the overwhelming evidence for them. And not a single person has been convicted for the massacre almost eight years after the event.
[Katchanovski’s work] has apparently not been well received – for instance by fellow Canadian-based Ukraine experts Professor David R. Marples and Dr Taras Kuzio.
I am one of the most cited scholars specializing in the politics of Ukraine. My studies on the Maidan massacre have been cited (overwhelmingly favourably) by over 100 other scholars and experts, replicated in a book by the political scientist Gordon Hahn, and corroborated by BBC and German investigative TV reports, as well as Italian, Israeli and U.S. TV documentaries.
Rons cites a 2014 article written by Taras Kuzio, but fails to mention that Kuzio was the head of a propaganda outlet linked to the far-right OUN. As David Marples notes (see p.29), Kuzio was “best known as Director of the CIA-financed Ukrainian Press Agency”. In 2012, Kuzio admitted to having received payments from the Fatherland Party for his media publications about Ukraine. More recently, Kuzio’s contract at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies was not renewed (see p.148), “partly as a result of his YouTube broadcasts, several of which targeted CIUS among his usual victims of scholars who in his view were hostile to Ukraine, “Putinophiles”, or fellow travellers”.
Rons also cites a 2014 article by David Marples. Although Marples is a respected historian, he has not researched the Maidan massacre himself. Since writing the 2014 article, he has changed his view, stating that the Massacre was carried out primarily by “snipers firing from the rooftops of nearby buildings” and that responsibility for it “remained unclear”. He has also cited my studies in his own academic work.
Referring to Kuzio and Marples, Rons falsely claims that I don’t “engage with their criticisms” of my work. In fact, I wrote an article titled “The Snipers’ Massacre in Kyiv: A Response to Critics”.
Rons also repeats the claim made by Kuzio and Marples that the far-right did not come to power after the Maidan massacre. I addressed this claim in the article mentioned above, as well as in my academic studies. The far-right Svoboda Party was given almost a quarter of cabinet positions in the interim Government, leading two observers to write in Foreign Policy that “a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current Government… are, indeed, fascists”. Dmytro Yarosh, the head of Right Sector, was offered a post of Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, but he rejected it.
Katchanovski acknowledges that the Government had been shooting and killing protesters during this period before, during and after his supposed neo-Nazis had taken up their positions on February 20th.
This is false. I have argued there is a lack of evidence concerning whether protesters were shot by the Berkut police or Government snipers. Neither the trial, investigation, nor the media have revealed any evidence that Yanukovych or his ministers or commanders ordered killings of the Maidan protesters.
The presence of far-right protester-murdering snipers on February 20th – which must obviously have been unknown to the vast majority of protesters – certainly wouldn’t (as Katchanovski hopes) delegitimise the protests themselves.
I have always favoured liberal democracy, human rights, and peace in Ukraine – even when it was dangerous to do so. I attended the opposition rallies in Kyiv when I was at university there in the late 1980s. During the first such rally, which was attended by just a few dozen people, undercover KGB agents arrested a female protester because she unveiled a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
In 1990, my department chair threatened to expel me from a Kyiv university because I based my final thesis on the theories of Max Weber and various Western economists, and wrote that the Soviet economic system was bound to collapse. Because of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost reforms, I was not expelled but merely given a “C” – meaning I could not pursue graduate education in the Soviet Union.
I publicly supported EU membership for Ukraine before and during the Maidan protests, and have continued to do so since then.
But I believe scholars must base their research on evidence, not on their political convictions. I have done research on all the major violent conflicts in modern Ukraine, including the Nazi and Soviet genocides, the mass murder by the OUN and the UPA, the Odesa massacre, the civil war and Russian military interventions in Donbas, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Nobody is disputing that Government forces shot and killed protesters… However, Katchanovski’s core contention is that some protesters also deliberately shot other protesters.
There is overwhelming evidence – documented in my video appendices – that protestors were shot from behind.
In this video, an ICTV reporter states that snipers from the Hotel Ukraina were shooting advancing protesters from the back. The video shows a concealed shooter firing from the hotel at 10:25am. Protesters and a BBC TV crew are then seen running, after they point out a “sniper” shooting from the hotel at 10:28am. A BBC reporter zooms in on an 11th floor window. Google maps, videos, and on-site observation confirm that it was physically impossible to shoot at the Berkut barricade from this hotel window, which matches the window in the ICTV video.
One protester stated that three other protesters fall to the ground when a sniper was firing from the same window of the Hotel Ukraina, where he saw gunshot flashes. Pastushok testified that he, Khrapachenko, and two other protesters from the Volhynian company were filmed by the BBC running, after shouts about “a sniper” in the Hotel Ukraina. Another protester then told him that this was “our sniper.”
The government investigation subsequently revealed that a deputy from the far-right Svoboda party occupied the relevant hotel room. About half the rooms on this floor were occupied by Svoboda deputies. Recall that the prosecution in the Maidan massacre trial denied there were any snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings like the Hotel Ukraina.
Shotgun pellets are of course used for hunting, but also for home defence and in law enforcement, and there is clear evidence of Government forces carrying shotguns and no evidence of protesters using them.
Synchronized and time-stamped videos show that all three protesters who were shot with hunting pellets on February 20th were killed before the Berkut special company (whose members were charged with their killings) even appeared in the Maidan area. At the time these protestors were killed, there was a live broadcast by a Polish TV journalist stating that a sniper was shooting at both police and protesters. Right after the protestors were willed, a warning not to shoot fellow protesters in the back was given from the Maidan stage.
I began to wonder whether Ukrainian Government forces could have been using Western-made sniper rifles chambered in 7.62 NATO or similar. The possibility was worth investigating, since if they weren’t using these rounds, it might tend to confirm Katchanovski’s claim that these came from commercially-available hunting rifles.
The government investigation, synchronised videos of the massacre, security cameras recordings, and testimonies of the commanders and snipers from SBU Alfa and Internal Troops Omega showed that those two units were deployed to the Maidan area only after almost all the protesters were killed or wounded. This means that government snipers could not have physically shot the two protesters with 7.62×54 caliber bullets, and Viktor Chmilenko with a 30-06 caliber ‘Springfield’ bullet.
What’s more, all the commanders and snipers from government units testified at the Maidan massacre trial as prosecution witnesses! They stated that their orders were to locate the snipers who were shooting at police and protesters, that they themselves were fired upon by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings, and that the killing of protesters in the areas of their observation stopped shortly after their deployment. Their testimony is corroborated by synchronised videos of the massacre, including those compiled by “anonymous volunteers” with funding from the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine.
Rons ignores numerous videos, photos, eyewitness testimonies, and admissions by members of Maidan sniper groups that are cited in my studies. They show that the Maidan snipers were armed with hunting and Mosin rifles that match both the calibers and types of the bullets extracted from the bodies of the protesters, and that they were shooting from the Music Conservatory, the Hotel Ukraina, and the Maidan barricades.
Evidence of Western-made sniper rifles in government hands was not difficult to find, and the former Azov Battalion volunteer Carolus Löfroos (whose unvarnished account of the war in the Donbas in 2014–15 I’d highly recommend) was able to identify the specific types of rifle.
It is revealing that Rons “highly recommends” the writings of a volunteer from the far-right Azov battalion. He ignores the videos and testimonies cited in my studies, which show that one of the locations from which snipers fired was the Kozatsky Hotel. This hotel is located on the Maidan, was controlled by the Maidan forces, and served as the headquarters of Patriot of Ukraine – a neo-Nazi organisation that founded and led the Azov battalion.
[While] police units weren’t using 7.62 NATO rounds, other Government forces were. In particular, the Sako make of rifle – as seen in Government hands – was singled out by the prosecutor. Katchanovski has completely omitted these hugely important facts.
Rons fails to note that the judge at the Maidan massacre trial read aloud the following forensic examination of the Khrapachenko bullet fragments: “this bullet is a part of hunting bullets 7.62×51 with expansive bullet soft point which could have been fired from the above-named hunting firearms…” A Berkut lawyer read aloud the same forensic report, which states that the bullet had “layers of corrosion”.
There is no evidence that Alfa, Omega or other government snipers fired hunting bullets, particularly with corrosion(!), nor other non-sniper bullets, such as 7.62×54 LPS rounds. The government investigation found that snipers from the SBU Alfa and Internal Troops Omega units did not massacre the protesters, and hence did not charge them (with the one notable exception). The prosecution alleged that officers from the Berkut special company killed protestors using such bullets, even though their calibers do not match the calibers of AKMs used by the Berkut special company.
Rons ignores the video and photographs, forensic and medical examinations, and testimonies of eyewitnesses – all of which show that Khrapachenko was shot from the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina in the back, and that it was physically impossible for him to have been shot by Berkut officers or Omega snipers.
Forensic and medical examinations by government experts found that he was shot by a corroded expanding hunting bullet in the back at a steep top-to-bottom angle. A laser used during an on-site experiment to determine a bullet trajectory also suggested a gunshot from the top of the Hotel Ukraina. Two protesters near him testified that he was shot from the Hotel Ukraina or another Maidan-controlled building. The prosecution initially found that he was shot from the Hotel Ukraina, but then charged the Berkut officers and an Omega sniper with his killing.
As documented in my video appendices, Pastushok testified during the government investigation that Khrapachenko, who was next to him at the time, was shot from the left side of the Hotel Ukraina. Pastushok also stated that protesters were fired upon from the Hotel Ukraina when they were carrying Khrapachenko.
Without any explanation, the Prosecutor General Office reversed its own previous findings that at least three protesters were killed from the Hotel Ukraina and ten others were also killed from significant heights, instead charging the Berkut officers with their killings. The GPU charged an Omega sniper with killing Khrapachenko even though it had already charged the Berkut officers. The court later released the Omega sniper due to lack of evidence.
The reports prepared by SITU were used in evidence in the trials of some Berkut police officers in 2016.
This is false. Maidan victims asked the court to use the SITU model that they commissioned as evidence during the Maidan massacre trial, but the trial did not admit it as evidence and did not examine it. In contrast, my publicly available video appendix with testimonies of over 80 witnesses concerning the Maidan snipers was admitted and shown as evidence during the trial, although I was not involved in any capacity.
[Katchanovski] dismisses the medical evidence suggesting Dmytriv was hit by one bullet that first passed through his right arm before entering his chest, instead choosing to assert that there were two bullets, only one of them (the fatal one) entering Dmytriv’s chest.
This is false. My video appendix shows the judge reading the original medical examination during the trial, which refers to separate bullet wounds in his hand and chest. It clearly specifies both the locations of the wounds and their steep top-to-bottom and right-to-left directions. Rons and the SITU misrepresented these wound locations and their directions, which clearly suggest Dmytriv was shot from the Bank Arkada, not from the Berkut barricade.
Contrary to Rons’ claim that Dmytriv was shot from a nearly horizontal direction by Berkut officers in front of him, the autopsy report specifies a top-to-bottom and right-to-left wound channel. In addition, the wound location under his right arm, and the wound direction pointing to the Bank Arkada, are consistent with a bullet hole that appeared on the side of his shield after the shooting.
The deformation of the steel plate led the forensic pathologists to suggest that the bullet deviated (i.e., in a downwards direction), but Katchanovski takes no account of this and simply draws another straight line from entry to exit wound.
This is another false claim. The Dyhdalovych autopsy report clearly specifies that “the bullet canalwas straight, continuous… The bullet canal direction: anteroposteriorly, top down… The shot was in the right upper body part in the direction of anteroposteriorly, top down…” Contrary to Rons’ claim that the bullet deviated in his body after passing through a steel plate in his bulletproof vest, the report specified that the bullet passed “through the bulletproof vest’s front part (without any contact with the front protective sheet)”, and hit the protective sheet at the back.
As in the case of Dmytriv, Rons ignores the fact that a bullet hole appears in a shield on the Bank Arkada side of Dyhdalovych, and that another protester – who was behind him at the time – stated that Dyhdalovych was killed by a sniper on the Bank Arkada. Rons also ignores the synchronized videos, which show there were no Berkut policemen firing from their barricade at the times Dmytriv and Dyhdalovych were killed.
Katchanovski dismisses the medical report because he doesn’t think it matches the bullet holes in the orange hard hat worn by Parashchuk, suggesting that one should prefer his analysis based on the holes in the hard hat he claims to see.
All three videos in my video appendix show the same bullet hole in the same right back area of Parashchuk’s helmet, and show there is no entry hole in the front left area of the helmet – contrary to what the SITU claimed. There was no other protester wearing such a helmet who was shot in the head.
Rons ignores the fact – documented in my video appendix – that Parashchuk could not have been shot from the top of the truck barricade by a Berkut officer because he was in a blind spot below the line of fire. He also ignores the fact that a female Maidan medic in a BBC video, and a Maidan protester in a French photographer’s video, pointed to snipers on the Bank Arkada shortly before he was shot.
In addition, Rons ignores the clear evidence of a cover-up that I documented: Parashchuk’s helmet and shield with the bullet holes that appeared after the killings of Dmytriv and Dyhdalovych, and all other such shields and helmets (with only a couple of exceptions), simply “disappeared”.
[Katchanovski] never provides any real evidence that these buildings were ever controlled in any meaningful sense by protesters, despite asserting it repeatedly.
This is another false claim. My studies (see p.13) and their video appendixes include numerous videos and testimonies indicating that the far-right Svoboda party and the Maidan Self-Defence controlled and guarded the Hotel Ukraina during the massacre. They also indicate that Maidan protesters searched all rooms of the hotel for snipers during the massacre and that they captured some snipers there, but those snipers were released by Maidan leaders. There is similar evidence for Maidan control of other buildings and areas. Recall once again that the prosecution denied there were any snipers in the Hotel Ukraina, the Bank Arkada or other Maidan-controlled buildings.
[Katchanovski] takes seriously the claims of some Georgian ‘protesters’ who supposedly ‘confessed’ inside Russia – to Russian authorities – that they were the snipers.
This is a complete distortion. My latest study (see pp. 30–31) notes that testimonies of the majority of wounded protesters and several dozen prosecution witnesses are “generally consistent” with the testimonies of 8 Georgian ex-military personnel – and with their interviews in American, Italian and Israeli TV documentaries, as well as Macedonian and Russian media.
Three of the Georgians testified at the Prosecutor General Office of Belarus on request of the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine, following an appeal by the Berkut lawyers. In November of 2021, the Maidan massacre trial admitted as evidence the testimony of one Georgian who confessed to being a Maidan sniper. Three self-identified Georgian snipers gave written depositions to Berkut lawyers for the trial; two provided notarized letters to the Ukrainian courts and offered to testify via video link from Belarus.
These individuals stated that they and other snipers from Georgia and the Baltic States received orders, weapons, and payments from specific Maidan leaders and former Georgian government officials and commanders. Their orders were to massacre both police and protesters in order to stop an agreement that was due to be signed by Yanukovych and the Maidan leaders. Most of the Georgians revealed their names, passport numbers, border stamps, copies of plane tickets, videos and photos in Ukraine or the Georgian military, and gave other evidence in support of their testimonies.
I’ll end with a statement made by an audience member in response to Katchanovski’s first conference presentation in 2014.
I did not present my Maidan massacre paper at this conference. As the video of my presentation shows, I presented a different paper – one concerning the civil war in Donbas. (This happens to be the most cited academic paper on that subject.) I merely discussed the findings of my Maidan massacre study, which I first presented at the Ukrainian Studies seminar at the University of Ottawa. The audience member, who is an activist from a successor organisation to the far-right OUN, attacked my study of the Maidan massacre without having read or heard it.