Former riot police officer assaulted Ukrainian children forcibly deported to Crimea
Valerii Astakhov, a former officer of the Berkut riot police, assaulted Ukrainian children illegally deported to Russia-annexed Crimea.
[Berkut was a Ukrainian special riot police force within the Ministry of Internal Affairs; it was formed in 1992. Prior to the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Berkut had a history of illegal activities against Ukrainian citizens, such as racketeering, terrorism, physical violence, torture, anti-Ukrainian sentiment, and voter intimidation. Yanukovych deployed Berkut to disperse Revolution of Dignity protesters, and the force was responsible for most civilian deaths during the revolution. The government formed after the revolution dissolved the agency. During the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Berkut units stationed on the peninsula defected to Russia - ed.]
Source: The Insider
Details: The Insider reported that it had identified the person who threatened and assaulted Ukrainian children taken to Russian "educational" camps in Crimea. He was a former Berkut officer, Valerii Astakhov, deployed to disperse the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv in 2013-14.
The Insider journalist talked to 17 children who have recently been brought back to Ukrainian-controlled territory and their parents. Vitalii, 16, told her that the children were beaten, threatened, and held in a basement.
When shown Valerii Astakhov’s photograph, Vitalii recognised him as the person who assaulted some of the children.
The Insider notes that Astakhov is known to have deported dozens of children from Sloviansk (Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine) to Rostov Oblast, Russia, in 2014.
Vitalii said that in the Druzhba (Friendship) children’s camp in Yevpatoriia, Astakhov would take children to a basement, show them a bat, and threaten to use it to beat them if they expressed support for Ukraine. Vitalii said that Astakhov hit and bruised a young girl from Kherson.
"He said, ‘I will lock you up in the basement, and you’ll sit there and obey my orders’," Vitalii described Astakhov as saying.
Vitalii added that there was no clean bedding in the camp where he was held: only a dirty mattress and a pillow for each child.
The Insider reported that even kids who have not been assaulted complained of poor living conditions and inadequate food.
Reference: According to the Myrotvorets (Peacekeeper) Center, a non-government Center for Research of Signs of Crimes against the National Security of Ukraine, Peace, Humanity, and International Law, Valerii Astakhov served in Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs until 2014. He obtained Russian citizenship after the annexation of Crimea and joined the forces of the Russian Interior Ministry in Yevpatoriia.
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said on 21 March that Ukraine has managed to get 15 Ukrainian children back home together with their mothers and legal representatives.
On 23 March, another two children were brought back to Ukrainian-controlled territory: a 9-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.
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