Who Ordered [the Attack on] Kateryna Handziuk?

As one of her last actions as U.S. Ambassador Maria Yavanovitch, on April twenty-fifth, 2019, presented an award to the father of Kateryna Handziuk. Later that night, she was contacted and told she was in danger and needed to return to the U.S. (fn#1 P.Baker, N.Y.Times, Nov 15,2019.)

Kateryna Handzuik’s murder had taken three months after a liter of Sulfuric acid was poured on her head as she entered her car for work.

She served as a member of the Ukrainian city of Kherson city government, and she worked as an advisor to the Mayor of Kherson and Deputy of the Regional Council. Kateryna was a graduate of the State University of Kherson and The National Academy of public administration. (fn#2 S.Fedeczko;https://en/hromadske.ua/)

As a youth, she was involved in the Rebellion for Dignity and became a member of the “fatherland party.” That was lead by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and was a significant party in Kherson.

Following Kateryna’s death on November eleventh, 2019, thousands of Ukrainian people all over the country protested, and her murder resulted in international outrage. (fn#3 https://opinionua.com/en/2018/09/17/assassination-attempt-against-handziuk/)

The people of Ukraine and the world demands a answer

The state officials did not have an answer to the question of who would kill Kateryna. In Kyiv and Kherson, banners appeared reading “who killed Kata.” The newly elected Ukrainian President, Zelensky, in a speech, declared that this murder is a matter of principle for him. (fn#4https://112.international/society/Zelinsky-hopes-for-early-resolution-of-Levins-extradition-from-Bulgaria-48097.html)

The outgoing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reported that this crime was a high priority for his administration and requested that to Prosecutor General become involved. The murder created a movement in Ukraine to press for answers as to why the level of violence against journalists and activists continues to plague Ukraine.

Anatomy of a assassination

As a member of the Kherson city government, she uncovered bribes for city contracts. That local police failed to act on these crimes and, in many cases, were a part of bribery and extortion. In July of 2018, she uncovered that forest fires in the Oleshky Forest occurred as a part of a plot to allow illegal logging to happen in the woods. Over 600 hectares burned pine trees in the woods were distroyed and needed removal as a part of sanitary deforestation. (#fn5 O.Grytsenko ; O.Sukhov Kyiv Post , Sep 14 , 2018. )https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FaVunMq60M

The deforestation allowed for healthy trees to be removed worth thousands of dollars. The wood was shipped to a processing company located in Romania.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al-z6BfU62Q

Organized crime families control the illegal logging in the Ukraine and Romania, and they share in the profits with government officials. Kata and her friends uncovered this corruption in the forest and posted photos of trucks hauling wood from the woods, and she documented this on Facebook.

She noted that the daily profit could equal 120,00 dollars for a load of wood. Katherya wrote that Kherson officials controlled the permits and were supported by the local police.

On July sixth, 2018, in the Oleshky forest, a massive protest occurred from the Kordon veterans group, which accused the Regional authorities of causing the fire. Kata was outspoken on the illegal logging, and this began a pattern of death threats. (#6 O.Grytsenko, D.Schulz, Kyiv Post, February fifteenth, 2018. )

Vladyslav Manger, as the regional head of the council, sued Kata for her accusations of bribery regarding the illegal logging. But he lost in the courts.

In protest, Kata broke with the Batkivshy party that she and Manger both belonged to, and she formed a new party, the Simya party, which embraced the environment.

The planning of the attack on Kateryna

On the morning of July thirty-first, 2018, Kateryna Handziuk, while entering her car, was doused with a liter of Sulfuric acid by a man running by her and masked.

She tried to peel her burning clothing from her skin, and this peeled off her flesh until she passed out from the pain. The medical staff transported her to Kyiv, hoping to save her life.

But following multiple surgeries, skin grafting medical care, and support three months later, November fourth, 2018, she died from a blood clot. (fn#7 https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/who-killed-katya-gandziuk.html).

Failed police support

On August third, 2018, Mykola Novikov was arrested by the SBU and charged with the attack on Katherya Handzuik. But all of the evidence revealed that he was with his family. For two months, Mykola was imprisoned despite Katherya, insisting that he was not her attacker.

During the months in the hospital, Katherya’s case was classified as a violent act of ‘hooliganism.’ But this conflicted with Katheryn’s view that the local police had failed to protect her. Artem Antoshchuk, who heads the department for protection of the economic she accused of bribery. (fn# 8 ,H.Coynash; khpg.org/en)

Katheryn died after going into a coma the SBU took over her case and processed it as a murder.

The SBU based information by Katherya’s posts and her friends opened an investigation into men associated with Vladyslav Manger.

Serhiy Torbin, a former police officer and leader of the Ukrainian volunteer army and members of his private security firm, became suspects.

The investigation found there were four members of his Team Mykyta Hrabchuk (he threw the acid ) Volodymv Vasianovycv , Viachesslav Vyshnevsky, and Viktor Horbunov. These suspects were later convicted but received minimal prison time that ranged from six and a half years to three years.

A special prosecutor took over the case, and Vladyslav Manager and Oleksky Levin became the persons who were the subject of the investigation and organizers of the murder.

Levin was a convicted murderer and spent fifteen years in prison.

The SBU reported that he is a member of the Ukrainian organized crime family and had a history of working with Igor Pavlovsky, who was a member of the staff of the regional Governor.

The pattern of murder and corruption conflict

The Ukraine prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko took over the case before the death of Kateryna and interviewed her about the people who attacked her. The situation faced pressure from President Petro Poroshenko and the activist community and Journalist.

Special Prosecutor Lutsenko had faced critics with his handling of the car bombing for Pavel Sheremet in 2016. Lutsenko had failed to find the mastermind of his murder.

Lutsenko’s handling of the evidence and questioning of members of the Kherson city government was suspect. He was criticized for his handling of oligarchs and protested by Ukrainian activists and Journalists.

The General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists requested increased protection of journalists and activists from Lutsenko’s office.

The world speaks out to Kateryna’s murder.

On November fourth Kateryna died of a blood clot, and the entire nation was shocked and angry. The world press and media covered the case. The Team that murdered Katheryna lead by Torbin were all convicted. The Deputy Police Chief Investigator Serhiy Kurdilov faced an internal review by the Ukrainian SBU. (fn# 9 V.Melozerova , O.Rudenko,Kyiv Post , Nov 4,2018. )

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko would remove Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General as a part of his failed efforts in the case. Yulia Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, feared that because Manger was a member of her party, it would affect her bid for President.

In February, ninth Manger was expelled from the Batkivshchyna party as a regional leader.

The NABU, the National Anti Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, opened an investigation into Yevhen Ryshchuk, Deputy Head of Kherson Regional State Administration. But this was suspended pending further investigation. Kherson Governor Andriy Gordeev resigned after an activist and followers of Handzuik accused him as the mastermind in Kateryna’s murder.

Andriy Gordeev wrote in his resignation letter that he was not involved in the murder. Still, he was informed that he was under investigation.

Vladislav Manger is currently free on bond pending additional charges.

Oleksiy Levin escaped into Bulgaria but was arrested on January twenty-fourth by the SBU and Interpol. Levin is awaiting extradition in Burgas, Bulgaria, for Kateryna’s murder. If convicted, he will face ten years in prison. (fn#10: https://antac.org.ua/en/news/how-the-head-of-kherson-regional-council-is-connected-with-the-suspect-of-organizing-handziuk-s-murder/).

Conclusion; Justice for Katherya

The father of Kateryna Handziuk has requested a meeting with President Zelensky to discuss the murder of Kateryna and the punishment of her attackers. But the death of Kateryna is about more than the end of one person’s life.

It reflects the failure of the justice system in Ukraine and that criminals and high-level government officials can escape punishment with a bribe or inept handling by law enforcement.

There is also a connection to the period when Russia controlled the structure of Ukraine. The era of the “orange revolution ” and the push back by activists and Journalists against Presidents like Leonid Kuchma and later Vicktor Yanukovych resulted in a period of brutal repression. The murder of journalists like Georgy Gongadze, Mykola Bychko, and Vadym Komarov span a period before and after the Revolution for Dignity.

Kateryna Handziuk grew up through this era and embraced what this period meant to the people of Ukraine. Her relationship with Maria Yavanovitch affirmed what a society based on the law could be.

The U.S. played a significant role in helping Ukraine in this change until, like Ukraine, the rules of law were altered to satisfy the current President, and he closed the path for Ukraine. The leader of that path was Maria Yavanovitch she retired on February first 2020 and she received a award from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and discussed her removal from office .

Video tribute to Kateryna Handzuik by U.S. State Department. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=a3ALX2dvVMs&feature=emb_logo

Footnotes :

  1. P.Baker , N.Y.Times , November 15,2019.
  2. S.Fedeczko;https://en/hromadske.ua/
  3. https://opinionua.com/en/2018/09/17/assassination-attempt-against-handziuk/)
  4. https://112.international/society/Zelinsky-hopes-for-early-resolution-of-Levins-extradition-from-Bulgaria-48097.html)
  5. O.Grytsenko ; O.Sukhov Kyiv Post , Sep 14 , 2018.
  6. O.Grytsenko, D.Schulz, Kyiv Post, February fifteenth, 2018
  7. https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/who-killed-katya-gandziuk.html
  8. H.Coynash; khpg.org/en
  9. V.Melozerova , O.Rudenko,Kyiv Post , Nov 4,2018.
  10. https://antac.org.ua/en/news/how-the-head-of-kherson-regional-council-is-connected-with-the-suspect-of-organizing-handziuk-s-murder/

Authors : update article :https://en.hromadske.ua/posts/kateryna-handziuks-father-calls-on-zelenskyy-to-keep-pg-riaboshapka

The current Prosecutor General Rouslan Riaboshapka there is a vote to remove him from office Vicktor Handzuik Kateryna’s father has requested that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continue to retain him in office.