Ukrainian activist Katerina Gandzyuk has died at a Kiev hospital, where she had been treated after surviving an acid attack this summer. A group of far-right veterans of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine are suspected of the attack.
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The exact causes of her death have not been established, yet Ukrainian law enforcement has already re-qualified the acid attack case as a “deliberate murder.” Ukrainian media in turn reports that she likely died due to a blood clot. Gandzyuk was a prominent “civil activist” with strong anti-Russian views, who took part in virtually all the unrest in the country over the past two decades – both in the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004 and the 2014 Maidan coup.
The death of 33-year-old Gandzyuk prompted protests across the country, with activists taking to the streets, demanding justice and urging the authorities to investigate attacks on other activists. A candle-lit vigil was held in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kiev. The activists carried placards reading “She was murdered” and “Who ordered to murder Katerina Gandzyuk?”
Акція – реквієм по Катерині Гандзюк під будівлею МВС. Покарати замовників та вбивць вимагають ті, хто зібрались pic.twitter.com/LtWTlGQ9I5
— Olya Komarova (@Komarisha) November 4, 2018
As well as activists, top officials expressed outrage over Gandzyuk’s fate, with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko calling on the police to do their best to “punish the evil.” EU-Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, condemned the “vicious crime” as well.
Very saddened by the news of the passing of the incredibly brave Kateryna #Handziuk. Attacks against #civilsociety activists are unacceptable. The perpetrators of this vicious crime must be brought to justice. My thoughts are with her family and friends. #Ukraine
— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) November 4, 2018
Gandzyuk was attacked in her home city of Kherson in July, when an unknown assailant doused her with lethal sulfuric acid. The woman received deep burns to her back, face and arm, losing sight in one eye. She alleged that “corrupt” high-ranking police officers might have been behind the attack and refused to cooperate with the investigators. Prior to the attack, Gandzyuk, who served as an acting official with the local administration, had set herself against the alleged corruption within ranks of Kherson law enforcement.
The police appeared to be reluctant to investigate the attack, triggering protests and even an attempted arson at the local prosecutor’s office. Following the outrage, a suspect was swiftly detained, yet he proved to be innocent, as Gandzyuk did not recognize him, while evidence showed that he was out of town on the day of the attack.
Five other suspects were detained then, with the majority of them turning out to be decorated veterans of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Sergey Torbin from the ‘voluntary corps’ of the far-right group ‘Right Sector,’ is believed to be the leader of the group that attacked Gandzyuk. The suspect allegedly told his co-conspirators that the woman was a “corrupt pro-Russian official” that needed to be punished.
Another suspect, Viktor Vasyanovich, had earlier got into media limelight, as he was featured in 2016 at a scandalous photo exhibition, dubbed the ‘Winners,’ held in the EU parliament.
The exhibition showed veterans who’d received debilitating injuries while fighting for Kiev against the rebellious eastern region, and Vasyanovich had his leg blown off by a land mine. The man was pictured shirtless, while making a karate kick of sorts. The picture gained much attention, as the pro-Kiev fighter boasted multiple Nazi-themed tattoos over his chest and arms. Following the outrage, the photo was removed from the EU parliament.
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