A court in Ukraine’s capital Kiev will speak with Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovich via a video linkup as part of a trial into the February 2014 Kiev unrest.
Yanukovich will be questioned as a witness in a case against officers of the Berkut riot police unit, accused of shooting at protestors.
Yanukovich and his defense have been seeking a video linkup questioning for more than a year. The former Ukrainian president has filed notices at courts, demanding that he be examined on all cases instituted in Ukraine in which he is involved.
The ex-president’s defense team has even filed a request to the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office, but it was turned down for violations of procedure - Yanukovich failed to provide his current home address. The ousted leader’s team of lawyers accused prosecutors of impeding the hearings for fears of getting unwanted data during the questioning. Later, however, a Kiev court compelled the investigation to question Yanukovich.
According to Ukrainian expert Ruslan Bortnik, the testimony may produce a series of shocking revelations as a number of high-ranking officials in the current administration supported both sides during the 2014 civil unrest.
"We should probably expect some sensations during the video conference," the expert said. "If Yanukovych tells honestly what he really knows, it may come as a nuclear bombshell for Ukraine.’
More than 300 reporters, including from Russia, have sought accreditation for the event.
Bortnik said that certain forces may seek to disrupt Friday’s testimony by Yanukovich one way or another, because the ex-president’s testimony may damage the reputation of numerous top officials, including the president, the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, as well as leaders of Ukrainian political parties and movements.
The riots in downtown Kiev, which evolved into a violent coup three months later, erupted in November 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovych ditched an association agreement with the European Union at the last moment.
Members of radical Ukrainian movements set up tent camps in downtown Kiev and created paramilitary "self-defense" squads that openly clashed with pro-government forces. The unrest peaked on February 18-20, 2014, with more than 100 people killed on both sides.
Yanukovich, who took refuge in Russia after the coup, is accused of state treason, crackdown on protests, power abuse and other crimes in his home country.
The investigation into the violence is still under way. At the same time, a total of 152 people have been charged in connection with the riots, and 35 were convicted. About 190 others are under pretrial investigation.