Law en­force­ment fails to iden­tify, pros­e­cute mur­der­ers of ac­tivists, jour­nal­ists in Ukraine

Kyiv Post - - National - BY OK­SANA GRYTSENKO [email protected] Rel­a­tives and friends pay their last re­spects to Kateryna Gandz­iuk on Nov. 7, 2018, in the south­ern Ukrainian city of Kher­son. A whistle­blower mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cial, Gandz­iuk died on Nov. 4 as a re­sult in­juries suf

Kateryna Gandz­iuk, who died on Nov. 4 as a re­sult of an acid at­tack, is the 10th name on a grim list of Ukrainian ac­tivists and jour­nal­ists who have been killed since the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion that over­threw the cor­rupt regime of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych in Fe­bru­ary 2014.

The list was pre­pared by the Hu­man Rights In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter and fact-checked by the Kyiv Post.

Po­lice have named sus­pects in the mur­ders in only six of 10 cases. None of those who or­dered the mur­ders have ever been iden­ti­fied, and no con­vic­tions have been se­cured.

Most of the slain ac­tivists were crit­ics of the rich and pow­er­ful, and their fam­i­lies link their killings to this fact.

The pace of killings is in­creas­ing: five of the mur­ders oc­curred in 2018, in­di­cat­ing that civic ac­tivism in Ukraine is now the most dan­ger­ous it has been since the 2014 revo­lu­tion.

1. Kateryna Gandz­iuk

Ac­tiv­ity: A mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cial of Kher­son, a city of 290,000 peo­ple some 550 kilo­me­ters south of Kyiv, Gandz­iuk ex­posed cor­rup­tion of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and po­lice. She also crit­i­cized lo­cal pro-Rus­sian groups and re­ceived mul­ti­ple threats.

Mur­der: Died on Nov. 4 at a Kyiv hospi­tal af­ter un­der­go­ing more than a dozen surg­eries in three months.

De­scrip­tion of at­tack: On July 31, an at­tacker poured a liter of con­cen­trated sul­fu­ric acid on her head and back, caus­ing se­vere burns to 40 per­cent of her body.

Sus­pected mur­der­ers: Five war vet­er­ans — some of whom ad­mit­ted be­ing paid from $300 to $500 for the at­tack. Two of them are in cus­tody, and three are un­der house ar­rest.

Gandz­iuk’s friends have pub­licly ac­cused Ihor Pavlovsky, an aide of a law­maker from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko fac­tion, Mykola Pala­marchuk, of be­ing the middleman be­tween the killers and the or­ga­nizer. Both Pavlovsky and Pala­marchuk have de­nied any in­volve­ment in the case.

Sus­pected mas­ter­mind: iden­ti­fied. Not Trial: Hasn’t started. Con­vic­tions: None.

2. Vi­taliy Oleshko

Ac­tiv­ity: Oleshko left his busi­ness in 2014 to fight for Ukraine against the joint Rus­sian-sep­a­ratist forces as a mem­ber of the Don­bas vol­un­teer bat­tal­ion. He was known un­der the nom de guerre Sar­mat and was dec­o­rated with a state medal for brav­ery in 2015. On re­turn to his home city of Ber­diansk in Za­por­izhzhia Oblast, he led lo­cal anti-cor­rup­tion ral­lies. Oleshko crit­i­cized lo­cal strong­men, in­clud­ing a law­maker from Vo­lia Nar­odu fac­tion, Olek­sandr Pono­mar­iov, and a law­maker with the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko fac­tion, Ser­hiy Valen­tirov. Mur­der: Shot dead on July 31. De­scrip­tion of at­tack: An at­tacker shot Oleshko in the back with a hunt­ing ri­fle in the back­yard of a ho­tel that Oleshko owned in Ber­diansk.

Sus­pected mur­der­ers: Po­lice ar­rested four sus­pects, in­clud­ing the shooter — an­other war vet­eran, called Artem Matiushyn. Later the po­lice also ar­rested a lo­cal busi­ness­man Mykhailo Sigida, who has been iden­ti­fied as a middleman. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia, Sigida had friendly re­la­tions with law­maker Valen­tirov. Pono­mar­iov and Valen­tirov did not re­spond to a re­quest to com­ment on the Oleshko case.

Sus­pected mas­ter­mind: Not iden­ti­fied. Though chief of Na­tional Po­lice Ser­hiy Kni­azev claimed in par­lia­ment on Nov. 8 that po­lice had found the or­derer of Oleshko’s killing, Oleshko’s lawyer said that Sigida was just a middleman in this case. Trial: Hasn’t started. Con­vic­tions: None.

3. Mykola By­chko

Ac­tiv­ity: By­chko was an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivist in Eskhar, a town of 5,500 peo­ple in Kharkiv Oblast, about 540 kilo­me­ters east of Kyiv.

Mur­der: He was found hanged in a for­est near his town on June 5.

De­scrip­tion of at­tack: By­chko’s friends said he had dis­ap­peared the day be­fore his body was found. He had gone to check on whether lo­cal sewage wa­ter was been poured into a river. The po­lice clas­si­fied the case as a sui­cide, but By­chko’s fam­ily and friends are sure it was mur­der. They say they saw bruises and scratches on his arms and legs, which they be­lieve were likely the re­sult of a fight.

Sus­pected mur­der­ers: Po­lice con­tinue their in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the as­sump­tion that it was a sui­cide.

Sus­pected mas­ter­mind: Not iden­ti­fied. Trial: None. Con­vic­tions: None.

4. Mykola Yarema

Ac­tiv­ity: Yarema was a mem­ber of the Bi­ly­chan­sky Fish­er­man civic en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, which pro­tects a re­cre­ation zone around the Svi­atoshyn Lakes in the western part of Kyiv. The head of the or­ga­ni­za­tion An­driy Maknyt­skiy is an ex aide to Oleg Lyashko, a law­maker and head of the Rad­i­cal Party.

Mur­der: Was found dead on March 26 in a mini­van where he had been guard­ing the lake overnight.

De­scrip­tion of at­tack: Yarema had been beaten to death. His cell phone was found smashed nearby. A month be­fore his mur­der, ac­tivists of Bi­ly­chan­sky Fish­er­man had pick­eted the Pros­e­cu­tor’s Gen­eral Of­fice, de­mand­ing that it in­ves­ti­gated il­le­gal con­struc­tion by the lake, which they linked to Mykola Sko­ryk, law­maker from Op­po­si­tion Bloc party and for­mer gov­er­nor of Odesa Oblast. Sko­ryk didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Sus­pected mur­der­ers: None. Sus­pected mas­ter­mind: None. Trial: None. Con­vic­tions: None.

5. Iryna Noz­drovska

Ac­tiv­ity: A lawyer and hu­man rights ac­tivist, Noz­drovska in­ves­ti­gated the mur­der of her sis­ter, Svit­lana Sa­p­atyn­ska, who was knocked down and killed by a car in the vil­lage of De­my­div in Kyiv Oblast in Septem­ber 2015. Noz­drovska was fight­ing for the man who hit her sis­ter to be pros­e­cuted. The man, Dmytro Ros­soshan­sky, was well-con­nected: his un­cle then worked as a judge in Vysh­horod­sky Dis­trict Court. Ros­soshan­sky was even­tu­ally sen­tenced to seven years in prison on Oct. 24. By then, Noz­drovska was al­ready dead for 10 months.

Mur­der: Noz­drovska’s body was found in a river in the vil­lage of De­my­div on Jan. 1. She had been stabbed to death.

De­scrip­tion of at­tack: Noz­drovska dis­ap­peared on Dec. 29, 2017. Yuriy Ros­soshan­sky, the fa­ther of the man re­spon­si­ble for her sis­ter’s mur­der, ad­mit­ted that he had met Noz­drovska at a bus stop in De­my­div, and af­ter an ar­gu­ment he had stabbed her in her face and neck. Af­ter that, he dumped her body into the river. He ad­mit­ted that he was drunk at the time.

Sus­pected mur­der­ers: Yuriy Ros­soshan­sky, though Noz­drovska’s rel­a­tives be­lieve he had an ac­com­plice. Sus­pected mas­ter­mind: None. Trial: The first hear­ing will be held in Shevchenkivsky Dis­trict Court in Kyiv on Nov. 13. The trial had ini­tially been sched­uled to take place in the town of Ir­pin near Kyiv, but the vic­tim’s rel­a­tives de­manded that an­other court hear the case, afraid that the sus­pect’s fam­ily might have con­nec­tions to the judges in Ir­pin. Un­der pub­lic pres­sure, the trial was moved to Kyiv.

Con­vic­tions: None.

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