UKRAINE: Ukrainian official charged in acid attack on activist after outcry

Ukrainian prosecutors said Monday (11 February) they had charged a high-ranking regional official with organising a deadly acid attack on a prominent anti-corruption activist that prompted widespread outrage.


EURACTIV (11.02.2019) – – Kateryna Gandzyuk, who worked as an adviser to the mayor of the southern city of Kherson, was an outspoken critic of corruption in law enforcement agencies.


She was attacked in July and had about a litre of acid poured on her by several attackers. The 33-year-old died in November after months of treatment, including more than 10 operations.


Her murder has prompted widespread outrage, with civil society activists accusing the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or find out who ordered the attack.


On Monday, less than two months before Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a president, General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko pointed the finger at the head of the local council in the southern region of Kherson.


Vladyslav Manger is accused of “organising the murder of Kateryna Gandzyuk,” Lutsenko said on Facebook.


According to the charge sheet released by Lutsenko, Manger was guided by “personal animosity” towards Gandzyuk because she opposed illegal logging in the region.


Lutsenko’s spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Manger was accused of “intentionally and unlawfully causing the death of another person… with special cruelty and by prior agreement with a group of individuals”.


Speaking to AFP, Sargan said that Manger was not yet arrested.


“Searches are under way in Kherson,” she said.


Expelled from the party


If found guilty, the 48-year-old faces up to life in prison.


Manger was a member of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) political party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key rival of President Petro Poroshenko in the 31 March presidential election.


He was expelled from the party last week.


Gandzyuk’s death has sparked condemnation of the government and drew renewed attention to dozens of assaults on other anti-corruption campaigners in Ukraine over recent months.


In August, police detained five people in connection with the case, three of whom were placed under house arrest.


In November, a former aide to a ruling party lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the attack.


Both the European Union and the United States have called the attacks on activists unacceptable and urged authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Fellow activists accused police and prosecutors of reluctance to investigate the case, insisting the detention of those possibly involved in the attack was made only after a wave of protests across the country.


Lutsenko in November submitted a letter of resignation to Poroshenko over the affair but the Ukrainian leader refused to fire him.


More than 50 attacks on anti-graft activists, environmental and human rights campaigners including five murders were recorded last year.



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UKRAINE: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a Kremlin’s Trojan horse in Ukraine’s presidential election?

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers


HRWF (18.02.2019) – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia hopes that he will be able to visit Ukraine in the future to meet with the believers of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he said in an interview timed to the 10th anniversary of enthronement as reported by Tass News Agency.


He was quoted as saying: “I hope that God would bring about my visit to Ukraine. Political situation[s] and conjuncture are fleeting occurrences. Today we have these political forces, then others… I still retain hope that I would be able to pray in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, to meet with my believers, with the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which, at the present time, heroically defends canonical Orthodoxy.”


On the eve of the presidential election in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill should not make such a statement for multiple reasons.


First, his words will be perceived in Ukraine as covert support for candidates oriented towards Russia rather than candidates focused on Kyiv and as an attempt to influence the votes of local populations in predominantly Russian-speaking regions. Hopes for a change at the head of the Ukrainian state are clearly expressed in the Patriarch’s words. In the current geopolitical context, it will be viewed as another blatant intrusion of the Kremlin in an electoral process abroad. This comes at a time when Putin uses his political weight to dissuade Orthodox Churches in the European Union from recognizing the autocephaly granted to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.


Second, Patriarch Kirill is bringing water to the mill of those who accuse the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, of being a ‘foreign agent’ of an ‘aggressor country’ and of being instrumentalised by Moscow. This move of Patriarch Kirill will also put Metropolitan Onufry of the UOC in a very uncomfortable situation, given the tenuous ecclesiastical links to the Russian Orthodox Church. For example, the UOC participates in the election of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church but this is not reciprocal as the Metropolitan of Kyiv is elected locally.


Surely, the Patriarch’s statement will fuel increased social and political hostility towards the UOC. It will also give arguments to those who push or force UOC parishes to switch to the new Orthodox Church recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.


On 17 January, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a bill setting the procedure for changing the affiliation of religious communities in the country. It specifically targets ‘those’ that are part of “the structure of a religious organization whose governing center is located outside Ukraine”, in ‘a’ state, which is recognized by law as having committed military aggression against Ukraine. Concretely, it is the sole UOC in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow that is on the radar. The bill provides for specific limitations of the activities of ‘such religious organizations.’ Among other things, it restricts access to military units for their clergy and chaplains.


Interreligious conflicts would be highly detrimental for the social, political and regional stability of Ukraine. Neither President Poroshenko, who personally deployed huge efforts to obtain the autocephaly of a ‘truly’ Ukrainian Orthodox Church before the presidential election, nor the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should instrumentalise religious divides for political purposes. It is unfortunately the trend that we are witnessing on both sides and the EU should not remain a passive observer of such a situation.



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