June 4, 2019 / 12:45 PM / 5 months ago

Ukrainian police officers arrested for murder in death of five-year-old boy

KIEV (Reuters) - Two Ukrainian police officers were arrested on suspicion of murder on Tuesday, accused of fatally shooting a 5-year-old boy while drunkenly firing weapons at cans and bottles in the courtyard of an apartment building, officials said.

Women place candles during a protest outside the headquarters of the Interior Ministry following a recent incident involving Kyrylo Tliavov, a five-year-old boy who was allegedly shot by drunken police officers and later died in a hospital, in Kiev, Ukraine June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The boy, Kyrylo Tliavov, was taken to hospital with a head injury last week and died late on Monday. His death sparked protests outside the Interior Ministry building by people who lit flares and held placards saying “the police kill people”.

The head of the provincial police force in the Kiev region, where the incident took place 80 km (50 miles) from the capital, resigned and asked to be transferred to the Donbass region where Ukraine is fighting a conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

Late on Tuesday, several hundred protesters surrounded the entrance to the regional police office in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, where the shooting happened, lighting flares and smoke pellets and demanding the resignation of the entire leadership of the district police.

A similar rally was held in the centre of Kiev, where several hundred protesters called for the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Avakov has not commented on the case.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would do everything possible to ensure the guilty were punished.

“No softening. No attempt to hide this matter. This tragedy should become a lesson. Those who have to take care of the safety of citizens should remember their responsibility,” he wrote on Facebook.

A lawyer for one of the officers told TV channel 112 it was too early to know who was culpable.

“Nobody wanted to kill this boy, who was 5 years old,” Andriy Chichirkin said.

Investigators found cartridges, cups and cans near the boy’s house, which they believed were used during the incident.

Activists on social media called for another protest on Wednesday.

Ukrainian police have previously been the target of mass protests, including in 2012 when officers were accused of helping cover up the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl because the attackers’ parents had political connections.

Tackling corruption in Ukraine’s police force was a priority for the authorities who came to power following the 2014 Maidan protests that toppled a Russian-backed president, but critics say the change has been patchy.

Editing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Peter Graff and Frances Kerry

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