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article imageUkraine activist's death from acid attack deepens crisis

By Oleksandr SAVOCHENKO (AFP)     Nov 6, 2018 in Crime

Ukraine faced a deepening political crisis on Tuesday after an anti-corruption campaigner died from a brutal acid attack that critics have accused the country's authorities of not doing enough to investigate.

Kateryna Gandzyuk, who worked as an adviser to the mayor of Ukraine's southern city of Kherson, died on Sunday after an attacker poured a litre of acid over her face and body in late July.

The 33-year-old activist's death after months of treatment shocked Ukraine and sparked fresh condemnation of the government by civil society activists, who accuse the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or finding out who ordered the attack.

The death has also drawn fresh attention to a spate of assaults on other anti-corruption campaigners over the past few months.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian attorney general Yuriy Lutsenko offered to step down over the affair, but only 38 lawmakers approved his resignation in a test vote in parliament, falling far short of the 226 majority required.

The chamber also voted to establish a commission to investigate the attack on Gandzyuk and other activists.

According to the law, Lutsenko would have to submit his resignation to President Petro Poroshenko who in turn would have to ask parliament to vote on it.

The Ukrainian president has not publicly indicated his intentions.

- Crime not 'fully solved' -

Activists protesting outside the parliament in Kiev in September after the brutal attack on anti-cor...
Activists protesting outside the parliament in Kiev in September after the brutal attack on anti-corruption campaigner Kateryna Gandzyuk, who has now died
Anatolii Stepanov, AFP

Poroshenko, who is expected to run for re-election next year, urged pro-government and opposition forces to refrain from attacking each other.

"I don't believe that the crime has been fully solved. I am sure that work must be continued," Poroshenko wrote on Facebook.

Police have detained two people and another three have been placed under house arrest in connection with the attack, but the mastermind is believed to be at large.

Two Ukrainian journalists have alleged that an aide to a lawmaker from Poroshenko's political party might have acted as an intermediary between the attack's organisers and the person who ordered it be carried out.

The lawmaker, Mykola Palamarchuk, has denied involvement.

His assistant, Igor Pavlovsky, speaking to a Ukrainian television channel, confirmed that he had been questioned as a witness but also denied being involved.

Attorney general Lutsenko for his part accused activists of putting pressure on the investigation and leaking information, making it difficult to establish who was behind Gandzyuk's murder.

Gandzyuk received burns covering more than 30 percent of her body, including her face, upper torso, and arms.

She was an outspoken critic of corruption in the law enforcement agencies, particularly in the police.

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

Poroshenko's government has sought to overhaul the law enforcement agencies and push through other ambitious reforms, but critics say corruption is still rampant and many attacks on activists and journalists remain unpunished.

In 2017, the body of rights activist Iryna Nozdrovska was found in a river outside Ukraine's capital Kiev.

In 2016, Pavel Sheremet, an award-winning Russian-Ukrainian journalist, died when a bomb planted in his car exploded near his home in Kiev.

Critics have also accused authorities of being unwilling to solve that crime.

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