THE STORY OF ANATOLY ONOPRIENKO
A Killer Unmasked
Sometime around noon Officer Khuney received a strange call from a man by the name of Pyotr Onoprienko. According to Pyotr, he had recently stumbled upon a stash of weapons hidden in his home. He had suspected that they belonged to his live-in cousin, Anatoly Onoprienko, and ordered him to pack up and move. Anatoly had become enraged at his cousin's accusations and told Pyotr that he better watch out, because he would take care of his cousin's family on Easter. Obviously fearing for the safety of his family, Pyotr wanted Khuney to investigate the threat. Pyotr told the investigator that his cousin had recently moved in with a woman and her child in the nearby town of Zhitomirskaya. The information about the suspicious character from the Zhitomirskaya intrigued Kryukov, who had just read a police report about a 12-gauge, Russian-made Tos-34 hunting rifle the type used in a recent local killing had been reported stolen in the Zhitomirskaya area.
"It was a long shot, but I thought, here we've got an armed guy from Zhitomirskaya, and a weapon missing. And we don't have too many people from Zhitom come here," said Kryukov. "If I hadn't gotten the (tip) that morning, I might never have considered it. But as it was, I had to think about it." Concerned, Kryukov quickly called superiors in the Lviv police headquarters for advice on how to proceed. Lviv police chief, General Bogdan Romanuk, instructed Kryukov to form a task force and conduct a search of Anatoly Onoprienko's apartment.
Within an hour, over 20 patrolmen and detectives were assembled, and the group set off for Ivana Khristitelya Street in unmarked cars. The suspect shared an apartment there with a Yavoriv hairdresser "Anna" and her two children. The exits to the suspect's building were blocked with unmarked cars and two men guarded the fourth and second floors. The remaining investigators surrounded the building. Khuney, Kryukov and patrolman Vladimir Kensalo then approached the suspect's door.
Kryukov had no idea whether Anna and her two children were home. Unbeknown to investigators, they were at church, and Anatoly Onoprienko, whom the children now called "Dad", was expecting them home any minute. When Kryukov rang the doorbell, Onoprienko assumed that it was Anna and opened the door without hesitation. To his surprise, he was quickly subdued and handcuffed. As Kryukov looked around the suspect's apartment, he noticed an Akai stereo in the living room. The stereo caught his eye because a Novosad family, recently murdered in nearby Busk on March 22, 1996, had a similar stereo, which was reported missing by family members shortly after their murder. "I had a list, which I always carried around, of certain items that had been reported missing, their makes and serial numbers," said Kryukov. "And the Akai matched the Busk crime scene."
When police asked Onoprienko for his identification, he led them to a closet. As an investigator opened the closet door, Onoprienko dove for a pistol he had previously hidden inside. Regardless of his efforts, he was quickly subdued and unable to get to it in time. The pistol, as it would turn out, was the second piece of evidence it had been stolen from a murder scene in Odessa. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, investigators escorted Onoprienko back to police headquarters and began a comprehensive search of the premises. By the end of the day, 122 items, belonging to numerous unsolved murder victims were recovered from the scene, including a sawed-off Tos-34 rifle.
As the search at Ivana Khristitelya Street was winding down, Anna came home. "She understood that something serious had happened, and asked me what was going on," Kryukov said. "There was nothing to do. I took her aside and said, 'Do you remember those killings in Bratkovichi?' and she broke down crying.