Ukraine Breaks Up Elite Cop Unit Accused of Brutality

As hunt continues for ousted president Yanukovich
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2014 7:02 AM CST
Updated Feb 26, 2014 7:27 AM CST
Riot police leave the Presidential office in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

(Newser) – Ukraine's elite Berkut anti-riot police unit has been disbanded by the country's acting interior minister after the unit was accused of brutality and blamed for the deaths of protesters. Arsen Avakov said he will give more details about what will happen to the 4,000 to 5,000 officers today, the BBC reports. The Berkut is just one "much-despised" law enforcement agency in the country; other security agencies have also been accused of human rights abuses. Meanwhile in Ukraine:

  • The whereabouts of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich are still unknown. In addition to the warrant that is out for his arrest, parliament voted yesterday to try him at the Hague's International Criminal Court. A new Cabinet is expected to be presented to protesters today. Meanwhile, acting president Oleksandr Turchinov announced he has taken on the duties of head of the armed forces.
  • As part of the hunt for Yanukovich, the US Treasury yesterday asked banks to watch for suspicious financial transactions indicating he or his allies might be trying to transfer state assets, Reuters reports.

  • Tensions in Ukraine are still high, particularly between pro-Russia and anti-Russia groups, and two rival protests are going on in Crimea. Separatism or secession continues to be considered a serious threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin put troops in western Russia on alert today, ordering a drill to ensure they're ready for combat, Reuters reports.
  • Yanukovich's opulent estate wasn't to be his only plush pad: The New York Times reports that a "Pharaonic seaside retreat" was being built for him in Laspi on the Crimean coast, in the middle of a supposedly protected forest with views of the Black Sea. The mansion was to be bigger than his presidential residence, with an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, thick walls and high ceilings, marble floors, and the like. But construction was halted after his ouster, since workers figured he'd never pay them.
  • When elections are held on May 25, former boxing champ Vitali Klitchsko will be one of the presidential contenders, NBC News reports.
  • Bank withdrawals peaked during the uprising, with as much as 7% of deposits being taken out, and now Ukraine is working to protect against a default, Bloomberg reports.
(Read more Ukraine stories.)

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