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Ukraine activist Kateryna Handzyuk dies from acid attack

Wednesday 7 November 2018, by siawi3

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/05/ukraine-activist-kateryna-handzyuk-dies-from-acid-attack

Ukraine activist Kateryna Handzyuk dies from acid attack

Campaigner’s death sparks protests and EU concern about violence against civil society

Andrew Roth
Moscow correspondent

Mon 5 Nov 2018 13.45 GMT
Last modified on Tue 6 Nov 2018 09.56 GMT

Photo: A candle burns by a portrait of Kateryna Handzyuk during a rally in Ukraine after her death. Photograph: Ukrinform/Barcroft Images

A Ukrainian anti-corruption activist has died from wounds caused by an acid attack, sparking local protests and concern from European officials over growing violence against civil society.

Kateryna Handzyuk’s investigations into police graft and political corruption in her native Kherson, a Black Sea port, had angered local officials. In late July, a man doused her with a litre of sulphuric acid when she left her house.

Handzyuk suffered burns to more than 30% of her body. She continued to speak out against corruption from her hospital bed and called for a thorough investigation into her attackers. She had 11 operations before she finally succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, called for the attackers to be punished. Five suspects have been arrested, including a former police officer believed to have led the assault. But it does not appear any of those arrested ordered the attack.

Meanwhile, local anger has surged. Several hundred supporters of Handzyuk gathered by the interior ministry in downtown Kiev on Sunday evening to demand that police find the killers.

Members of the European commission on Monday demanded a vigorous investigation into Handzyuk’s death.

“Attacks against #civilsociety activists are unacceptable. The perpetrators of this vicious crime must be brought to justice,” wrote Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for European neighbourhood and enlargement negotiations, on Twitter.

The attack on Handzyuk in July came on the same day as the death of another activist who had been shot. Vitaly Oleshko, a veteran of the conflict in south-east Ukraine, had also complained about government corruption in his native Berdyansk. He was shot in the back with a hunting rifle.

Similar attacks have highlighted the pressure being put on civil organisations in Ukraine, where corrupt politicians and sharp-elbowed businessmen are suspected of curbing scrutiny with gangland methods.

Handzyuk was a well-known activist who was also a member of Kherson’s city council. In one of her investigations, she accused a local police official, Artem Antoschuk, of taking a 3% cut of all local business deals and government contracts.

Speaking with Ukrainian broadcaster Hromadske from her hospital bed in late September, she said she believed the attack against her was an attempted assassination.

“Why do I consider this an attempt to kill me?” said Handzyuk. “Because they poured the acid on my head. If they wanted just to scare me, it would be on the arms, legs, face.”

Handzyuk added that she was still in deep pain from the acid, saying one had to “be patient”.

She called on the presidential administration to provide political pressure to investigate attacks against local activists.

“So many attacks in such a short period of time have gone without punishment and with the connivance of the police,” she said. “I think we have to speak loudly about this at the Bankova [Ukraine’s presidential administration].”