The murder of a human rights lawyer who had been fighting to keep her sister’s killer in prison has sparked protests in Ukraine and been described by the country’s foreign minister as a “challenge to the state”.
Iryna Nozdrovska’s body was found on Monday in a river near Kiev by a man walking his dog. The 38-year-old lawyer had been missing for two days. Ukrainian police said in a statement that they were opening an investigation into “premeditated murder”.
Nozdrovska had spent the last two years working to stop the release of the man who killed her sister when he hit her with his car while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2015. Sentenced to seven years in prison in June, Dmytro Rossochansky, who is the nephew of a judge, looked likely to be released under an amnesty until his appeal was dismissed by the Kiev Appeal Court last Wednesday. This rejection was obtained largely as a result of Nozdrovska’s high-profile campaign to keep him behind bars.
This assassination provoked strong reactions on the social networks in a country where the judicial system is regularly accused of absolving people close to senior officials.
Some two hundred people went to the regional police headquarters, chanting “Shame!” and calling for justice. Others demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov
This is a “challenge for the state and a test of the society’s ability to protect its women activists and ensure justice” in general, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo on Twitter Klimkin.
The US embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter that it was “shocked and saddened by the death of activist Iryna Nozdrovska. We offer our deepest condolences to her friends and family.”
“Those responsible must be brought to justice,” the embassy added.
Nozdrovska has received “numerous threats from the defendant and his family,” said Ukrainian MP Mustafa Nayyem. According to him, at the last hearing of the trial of Rossochansky, the father of the latter had threatened the lawyer, saying: “this will end badly”.
A police spokesman told journalists on Tuesday that while a number of motives for her killing were being considered, including “hooliganism” and rape, investigators were prioritising leads relating to her work on the Rossochansky case.