Two Ukrainian police officers have been arrested on suspicion of murder, accused of fatally shooting a five-year-old boy while drunkenly firing weapons, officials have said.
- Protesters have gathered at the scene where the boy was shot
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would do everything possible to deliver justice
- Ukrainian police have previously been the target of mass protests due to cover-ups and corruption
It is alleged the patrol officers were shooting at cans and bottles in the courtyard of an apartment building last Friday, when the boy was hit.
The boy, Kyrylo Tliavov, was taken to hospital with a head injury and died late on Monday (local time).
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 kilometres from the capital, resigned and asked to be transferred to the Donbass region where Ukraine is fighting a conflict with Russian-backed separatists.
Several hundred protesters surrounded the entrance to the regional police office in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky.
Protesters lit flares and smoke pellets, and demanded the resignation of the entire leadership of the district police. Activists on social media have also called for another protest on Wednesday.
A similar rally was held in the centre of Kiev, where several hundred protesters called for the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Mr Avakov has not commented on the case.
‘Nobody wanted to kill this boy’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would do everything possible to ensure those guilty were punished.
“No softening. No attempt to hide this matter. This tragedy should become a lesson,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Those who have to take care of the safety of citizens should remember their responsibility.”
A lawyer for one of the officers told local television, Channel 112, it was too early to know who was culpable.
“Nobody wanted to kill this boy, who was five years old,” he said.
Investigators found cartridges, cups and cans near the boy’s house, which they believed were used during the incident.
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 said the change had been patchy.