Ukraine Accuses Russia of Helping Yanukovych in Protester Deaths

Ukraine’s security service said deposed President Viktor Yanukovych deployed snipers to target anti-government demonstrators this year, with Russian forces also playing a role in violence that cost more than 100 lives.

The ousted Kremlin-backed leader, who fled to Russia in February, deployed sharpshooters on buildings in central Kiev and ordered them to open fire on protesters, State Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko told reporters today in Ukraine’s capital. Russia began sending special forces personnel to the country in December and shipped explosives there the next month, he said. Yanukovych has denied involvement in the sniper deaths and Russia dismissed the accusations today.

February’s crackdown on protesters “was directly managed by ex-President Yanukovych,” Nalyvaychenko said. “We have grounds to think Russian groups located at one of Ukraine’s state security training centers participated in the planning and implementation of the so-called anti-terrorist operation.”

Nalyvaychenko’s remarks heighten tensions between Russia and Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and sparked the worst standoff with the U.S. and Europe in more than two decades. Russia doesn’t recognize the new administration in Kiev, which took power after what began last year as pro-European street protests turned into a weeks-long anti-government uprising.

Russia needs to explain why members of its Federal Security Service, or FSB, were present in Ukraine and provide their names and job titles, Nalyvaychenko said. The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said his allegations should “lie on the conscience” of Ukraine, according to a press service statement cited by the state-run RIA Novosti newswire.

Twelve former officers from Ukraine’s Berkut riot police division have been detained in relation to protesters’ deaths, with three arrested, General Prosecutor Oleh Makhnitsky told the same news conference today.

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