Saturday, 25 January 2014

Lethal ‘car stopper’ bullets used against protesters during Hrushevskoho Street clashes

The bullets have stopped flying, for now. But investigations into what exactly is being fired at protesters have just begun. A report published on Jan. 25 by Armament Research Services, a specialty arms and munitions consultancy in Perth, Australia, says the mysterious cufflink-shaped projectiles presumably fired by riot police on Hrushevskoho Street at protesters during clashes this week are not meant for riot control, but for stopping vehicles, busting through doors and piercing armor The bullets, writes ARES director N.R. Jenzen-Jones, who specializes in Eastern bloc weapons and provided the Kyiv Post with the report, says the bullets are specialist armor-piercing 12-gauge shotgun projectiles, likely developed and produced by the Spetstekhnika (Specialized Equipment) design bureau, a facility located in Kyiv and associated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Interior Ministry press service could not immediately be reached for comment or confirmation. '"The projectiles are comprised of either a brass or aluminium slug and a core of (likely hardened) steel, designed to act as a penetrator,” Jenzen-Jones writes. “The design of the projectile has been optimised for stopping vehicles, and the cartridge is referred to as a ‘car stopper.'" To that extent, “these cartridges are not intended for riot control. If they were deliberately fired at a protestor then they were likely intended to be lethal,” he told the Kyiv Post. An ammunition specialist in Ukraine familiar with government service ammunition and weaponry who asked to remain anonymous recognized the bullets as those seen at the 2013 Weapons and Security expo in Kyiv. According to the display description of the brass and aluminum versions of the slugs at the expo (see image below), they are “designed for the forcible stop of a vehicle by damaging parts and mechanisms while shooting a 12 gauge weapon.” When images of the rare bullets first circulated on social media on Jan. 22, they were thought to be Blondeau bullets, French designed projectiles first developed during World War II to disable military vehicles. Smaller versions of them are popular with hunters, who used them on large game. A quick internet search shows that those Blondeaus start at a few dollars a piece and go up, depending on the size and function. But the ones gathered by activists and journalists in Kyiv and believed to be those produced by Spetstekhnika differ in form. “Contrary to some information circulating online, these slugs are not Blondeau type projectiles. Additionally, the larger ‘end’ of the projectile is the forward portion,” the ARES report reads. “There also appears to be some confusion as to the purpose of these cartridges, with the some sources claiming they are primarily used as breaching rounds. Unlike dedicated breaching cartridges, which make use of frangible projectiles of sintered metal powder, these slugs are not intended to disintegrate upon impact.” The report continues: “Suffice to say, these projectiles are lethal, and would not generally be fired in the course of a crowd-control action. Firing such cartridges against human targets certainly constitutes lethal force and, whilst effective within range constraints, would be an unusual choice. Other cartridge types would be more readily available, cheaper, and more effective if lethal force was required.” At least two anti-government protesters were shot and killed there this week and dozens more were injured during explosive clashes with riot police. The two men died after being shot with live ammunition, according to Maidan Medical Service Coordinator Oleh Musiy and prosecutors, who for their part said they had opened an investigation into the deaths. Serhiy Nihoyan, a 20-year-old from the small town of Bereznovativka near the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, died after taking hits in the head and neck. Mikhail Zhyzneuski, a native of Belarus who reportedly immigrated to Ukraine in 2005 due to political persecution in his home country, was shot in the heart. Three days after their deaths it remains unclear exactly who shot the two men and which type of gun and what size caliber of bullets killed them. Some reports have said that lead buckshot is what killed Nihoyan. There have been no reports of deaths of protesters at Hrushevskoho Street caused by the large shotgun projectile described in the ARES report, though numerous injuries caused by the bullet have been reported by media and medical personnel at the scene. The Kyiv Post witnessed a man being shot with one on Hrushevskoho Street. Writhing in pain after falling to the ground, he was taken away by medical personnel. He condition remains unclear. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has repeatedly said that police forces on Hrushevskoho Street are not in possession of firearms, though hundreds of images strewn across internet and print media show interior troops firing at anti-government protesters.

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