Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Kateryna Gandziuk, who was seriously injured in an acid attack in July, has died in hospital. This news was confirmed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, after first being announced by on Facebook by a group that publishes updates on the investigation into her attack.
”I want to address the law enforcement bodies so that they do everything possible to find the murderers, to punish them, and put them on the defendants’ bench,” Poroshenko said.
Gandziuk, 33, worked as a counselor for the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson, in the south of the country. She was leaving home early on the morning of July 31 when a man threw a liter of acid on her and then fled. She was immediately hospitalised in a serious condition, with injuries to 30 percent of the body, including her upper torso, arms and face. Ukrainian media is reporting that she died of a blood clot on Sunday.
Following a public outcry against the authorities, who were widely accused of failing to properly investigate the attack, the police quickly arrested a suspect. However, in an interview with Ukrainian media, Gandziuk had expressed doubts about the man’s guilt. “I sympathise with the poor guy who was arrested in my case – it’s 99% certain that he’s a random choice,” said Gandziuk. “I realise that they had to calm down the media, but they did it at the price of his life. Friends I was with who saw my attacker say that it wasn’t him,” she said.
Gandziuk’s death sparked protests across the country, with activists taking to the streets, demanding justice and urging authorities to investigate attacks against other activists. A candlelight vigil was held in front of the Ministry of the Interior in Kiev.
Gandziuk was an outspoken critic of police corruption as we well the Russian separatists fighting the government in east of the country. Ukraine has seen an increase in attacks on anti-corruption activists and campaigners in the last few years.
In 2016 journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed by a car bomb near his home in Kiev.
In 2017, the body of human rights activist Iryna Nozdrovska, who had been stabbed to death, was found in a river outside the capital.
And in July, Vitaliy Oleshko, a local activist and former pro-government volunteer fighter in eastern Ukraine, was shot dead outside a hotel in the southeastern city of Berdyansk.