Ukrainian lawyer found buried in farm
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine prevents Moscow and Kiev resolving disputes. Source: Wikimedia
A lawyer for one of the two Russian servicemen on trial in Ukraine has been found shot dead, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Yuriy Grabovsky was defending Russian sergeant Aleksander Aleksandrov in a high-profile case that has increased tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Kiev claimes that Aleksandrov and fellow special operations captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev were serving members of Russia’s military when they were captured in the separatist region of Lugansk in May last year. The Kremlin claimed that both had resigned from active duty before crossing the border into the war zone voluntarily.
But the two wounded soldiers told the media while being treated in a Kiev hospital last May that they were sent across the border on reconnaissance missions by their commanders. They said they were attached to a military intelligence unit.
Shortly after his disappearance, Grabovsky’s Facebook account was hacked with pictures posted from an Egyptian resort. His friends and colleagues said the pictures were fake as Grabovsky left his passport at home.
Grabovsky, 43, was last seen in the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa on March 5. He was later reported missing and a murder investigation was launched on March 10. Chief Ukrainian military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said the lawyer’s body was found in an abandoned farm about 125km south of Kiev.
Matios said Grabovsky was “violently murdered, with an additional shot fired” to make his death certain. The prosecutor said two suspects had been detained, of which one had already confessed to the murder and helped locate the body.
“These are Ukrainian citizens, one of whom used a fake special service agent ID,” Matios said. He added that the suspects “had received a lot of money” and “did everything to create their alibis”.
They allegedly drugged Grabovsky in Odessa before taking him to Kiev. Matios said the men admitted to clamping an explosive bracelet to Grabovsky’s leg, telling him it would explode if he attempted to escape.
Russia’s foreign ministry blamed Grabovsky’s death on the “Russophobic hysteria” and Ukraine’s pro-western rulers. “Despite all our warning, the Kiev authorities either could not or did not want to ensure Yuriy Grabovsky’s safety,” the ministry announced. “Ukraine clearly does not intend to adhere to legal methods or accept that the anti-Russian and overtly Russophobic hysteria adopted by the authorities” is failing.
Prosecutors said Grabovsky’s death would not delay the trial that is reaching its final stages. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has proposed swapping the two soldiers for Nadiya Savchenko, the Kiev-born helicopter pilot who was sentenced in the week to 22 years in prison for her alleged involvement in the death of two Russian journalists reporting on the separatist conflict in the east.
Savchenko, 34, denies the charges. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he asked for her release during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the Syrian conflict.
One of Savchenko’s Russian lawyers said he had been threatened while defending the pilot known to many as Ukraine’s “Joan of Arc” for her dogged defiance during the trial. “A lawyer working on a highly publicised case easily obtains the status of an enemy of his own people,” Ilya Novikov posted on Facebook. “I do not know if Yuriy received as many threats and insults from Ukrainians for defending Aleksandrov as we did for defending Savchenko from Russians. I suspect that he did.”