Ukraine Disbands Controversial Riot Police

Demonstrators hold the Berkut riot police responsible for the deaths of protesters

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Ukraine’s acting interior minister announced on Wednesday that it had disbanded the country’s elite riot police, known as The Berkut, which has been blamed for deadly attacks on anti-government protesters.

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s acting interior minister, wrote on Facebook that he had signed a decree to disband the special unit. The Berkut (“Golden Eagle”) force had between 4,000 and 5,000 members stationed across Ukraine, reports the BBC.

Anti-government protesters have blamed Berkut officers for the deaths of dozens of demonstrators during the recent protests in Kiev, including in violent clashes that left scores of people dead and ultimately led to the toppling of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The special unit has in the past been accused of numerous scandals, including of intervening in  parliamentary elections and brutally cracking down on anti-government demonstrators.

However the decision to disband the unit could potentially inflame tensions in Ukraine’s pro-Russia Crimea, reports the Financial Times, as more than half a dozen of its policemen died in the fighting in Kiev earlier this month.


(Read: The Russian Stronghold in Ukraine Preparing To Fight The Revolution)