GEOMETR.IT foreignpolicy.com 14.03.2016
Our story on Bubenchik, the self-proclaimed Maidan sniper, is very much in line with that mission. It was part of a film we aired on February 18, both on our own online platform and on a national TV channel, which depicted how his decision to shoot two police officers affected the course of events on that day. The day — February 20, 2014 — was so dramatic that we called the film Zlam — “The Breaking Point.”
Later on that same day, four police officers died from gunshot wounds. But the death toll among the protesters was much higher — a total of 48 were brutally murdered. This was the single highest daily death toll not just during the revolution, but since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.
Two years later, there are 22 policemen being tried for these crimes. Five are currently in detention, others are still wanted. But Bubenchik, who says he also killed, is free. He had talked openly about his deed before. But the story had never been picked up by the media, and there had never been a full-scale investigation. The State Security Service either did not believe his story, or chose to ignore his confession — in Ukraine, it’s not politically correct to judge the victors.
- The accepted narrative is that the protesters were the good guys, while the government troops were murderers. There’s no doubt that the protesters really were heroes. They risked their lives, their families and their well-being to stand up against a crooked political elite. Because of them the word “hero” started to make real sense for us in Ukraine — it became personified.
- But real life is not black and white. Sometimes heroes can act in evil ways, and Bubenchik’s story is a case in point. It complicates an already painful episode in the recent history of a country that is still bleeding because of an ongoing war with Russia in the east, the annexation of Crimea, a divided population and endless political infighting.
- That’s why it took courage to report this story. For our journalists, Anastasiya Stanko and Angelina Kariakina, it was a massive ethical challenge. Many of their sources, who had themselves been protesters, kept saying that Ukraine was not ready for the truth.
“This episode about the shootings on February 20  was emotionally the most difficult one,” says Anastasiya Stanko, co-author of the story. “Most of all, we wanted to try to approach it without emotions, as much as possible, and only concentrate on facts.”
Incidentally, Bubenchik, our protagonist, believes that he did nothing wrong. “It’s important for me that people understand that it’s not an alcoholic or drug addict talking. I understood what I was doing,” he says in the film. “I do not see any crime in my actions.”
Bubenchik thinks what he did was justified by the circumstances of that day. The journalists who reported the story also say that context is key. “It’s impossible to separate this day from all three months of protests — and that was very important to show,” says Angelina Kariakina, the other creator of the film. “The first episode of violence on the Maidan was against a peaceful, mostly student protest in November. The first murders took place in January. In many ways the 20th of February was the culmination of those protests,” she says.
Despite all these dilemmas, we chose to report the story. Perhaps we’re naive, because we believe in equal rules and justice for all. Or maybe we’re setting a new standard for our country’s media, which, as in any free country, should be able to report unpopular truths.
A week after our film aired, the prosecutors finally acted. On February 25, investigators searched Bubenchik’s home in Lviv, as mandated by court order. A real investigation into what he did might finally be starting.