KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian parliament appealed Tuesday to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to try ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and other officials on charges of crimes against humanity.
The parliament passed a measure seeking an international trial of the officials for actions “which led to especially dire consequences and mass murder of Ukrainian citizens in the course of the peaceful protest actions in the period from Nov. 21, 2013, to Feb. 22, 2014,” the UNIAN news agency reported.
The political crisis in Ukraine, the worst since the country gained independence in 1991, turned especially violent last week when at least 100 people were killed, many of them believed to have been shot by snipers, and thousands were injured.
The measure adopted Tuesday named, in addition to Yanukovich, as parliament is known, named such top state officials as former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko, both of whom are believed to be in hiding somewhere in Ukraine.
The parliament, known as the Supreme Rada, also asked that an International Criminal Court investigator decide on charging other Ukraine officials after studying evidence in the case.
The declaration by parliament said that law enforcement agencies in Ukraine assaulted demonstrators using clubs, tear gas, stun grenades and firearms on orders from top state officials who, the statement said, had exceeded and abused their powers.
Riot police inflicted bodily harm, used water cannons against protesters in subfreezing temperatures and forced some to stand naked outside, the document said.
“A typical sign of that period were kidnappings and disappearances of people, illegal detentions of them when they were forcefully taken outside to desolated places with an aim of being tortured and killed,” the statement said.
While the allegations are being made to the international court, a case is also being considered by a district court in Kiev, the deputy speaker of parliament, Ruslan Koshulinsky, said.
Tuesday’s developments came on the first day of Ukraine’s newly launched presidential election campaign. At least two political leaders have declared themselves as candidates in the May 25 vote: opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko and the pro-Yanukovich and pro-Russia governor of the eastern Ukrainian industrial center of Kharkiv, Mikhail Dobkin.
“I will be running for the presidency of Ukraine because I am confident that Ukraine should completely change the rules of the game,” Klitschko told reporters in parliament. “Justice should prevail and I know for sure this can be done.”
Former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, Yanukovich’s longtime rival who was released from prison Saturday after he fled Kiev, hasn’t declared any intention to join the presidential race. Visibly ailing after her time in prison, she is planning to go to Germany in the coming days for medical treatment, media reports said.
Yanukovich reportedly is hiding in Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian province where Russia has its Black Sea Fleet home base. Some media reports alleged that Yanukovich was on a Russian navy vessel; others said he was hiding in a monastery.
Yanukovich’s closest aide and chief of staff, Andrei Klyuyev, was shot and wounded Monday night when he was returning to Kiev in his car after meeting with his boss in the Crimea and tendering his resignation, according to Klyuyev’s spokesman, Artyom Petrenko.
“Andrei Petrovich had a gunshot wound and is being treated in a clinic in Kiev,” Petrenko said in an interview. “He was not hiding but on the contrary he was returning to Kiev because he is innocent of the crimes attributed now to Yanukovich and other state officials.”
Petrenko said the wound was not life-threatening.
Until mid-January, Klyuyev headed the National Security Council and in that capacity was monitoring law enforcement operations against the protesters. The opposition has accused him of provoking violence in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.
“My boss has always tried to resolve everything peacefully and never gave any orders to anybody to use force,” Petrenko said. “He was ambushed on a highway. Now the situation in Ukraine is very dangerous because the police are no longer patrolling streets and roads given that so many weapons and firearms got into the hands of some paramilitary groups in recent days.”
Also Monday, someone broke into a country home near Kiev belonging to another key opposition opponent, Communist Party chief Petro Simonenko, looted and burned it, media reports said.
The developments lent an ominous note to the parliament’s call for justice.
“With the post-Soviet statehood of Ukraine all but collapsed, people driven by vengeance don’t want to wait for the state to reemerge from the ruins to bring the former officials to justice,” Vadim Karasyov, head of the Institute of Global Strategies, a Kiev-based think tank, said in an interview. “The revolution won, but protesters don’t see their interests properly represented. ...We are dealing with a serious crisis of statehood. Hence summary trials are taking place in the street, and the situation has the potential to aggravate until a compromise is found between the new authorities and the people.”
Andriy Medvid, 28, a demonstrator from the city of Poltava, was still wearing a black mask and flak jacket and carrying a baseball bat in central Kiev on Tuesday.
“We don’t trust the new government to catch Yanukovich and other criminals because they worked with them before,” Medvid said. “I am sure our people are already looking for them, and they will find them. That is a fact. And you know what? We don’t even need a trial.”