Ukraine charges official with acid murder
Human rights groups say there were more than 50 assaults on anti-corruption campaigners in Ukraine during 2018, including five murders.
Kateryna Gandzyuk, an adviser to the mayor of the southern Black Sea port of Kherson (pictured), was a prominent critic of judicial corruption.
The 33-year-old was attacked in July last year with about a litre of acid by several attackers. She died in November after more than 10 operations.
Her death came amid a wave of attacks against Ukraine’s civic activists, with rights groups claiming law enforcement agencies failed to thoroughly investigate the cases and may even have been involved in some of the assaults.
Rights groups said the authorities failed to complete the investigation into who ordered the attack on Gandzyuk.
Less than two months before Ukrainians vote in the presidential election, General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko announced charges against the head of the municipal council in Kherson, Vladyslav Manher. He is accused of “organising the murder of Kateryna Gandzyuk”, Lutsenko posted on Facebook.
Manher, 48, is accused of being guided by “personal animosity” because Gandzyuk opposed “illegal logging”.
Lutsenko’s spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Manher faced charges of “intentionally and unlawfully causing the death… with special cruelty and by prior agreement with a group of individuals”.
“Searches are underway in Kherson,” she said.
Manher’s lawyer, Dmitry Ilchenko, said no evidence had been presented against his client.
Investigators searched Manher’s home on Monday.
Manher denies knowing Handzyuk or having any ties to her, telling a television station that he was “ready to answer all questions from investigators” and that he was “not going to go anywhere and will fully co-operate with the investigation”.
Manher was a member of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival to President Petro Poroshenko in the March 31 election.
He was expelled from her party last week.
In August, the Ukrainian police detained five people in connection with the murder, three of whom were placed under house arrest. Two suspects, Sergei Torbin and Nikita Grabchuk, are in pre-trial detention in the case.
In November, a former aide to a ruling party MP was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the case.
Before and after. Protests for Kateryna Gandzyuk. Picture credit: YouTube