A Kyiv court has ruled for the man accused of concealing activist Kateryna Handziuk's murder from law enforcers to be taken into custody for two months without the possibility of bail. Yet, Ihor Pavlovskyi has received his sentence on a different, unrelated to Handziuk's murder charge of “creation of a criminal organization and illegal storage of firearms”.
This was reported by a hromadske correspondent from the Pechersk District Court where the hearing took place on the evening of January 21.
The acid attack on the local activist and city council worker from Kherson, southern Ukraine, Kateryna Handziuk occurred on July 31, 2018. Initially, the attack was treated very lightly with the case being classed as "hooliganism." But when Handziuk died from the injuries sustained in the attack three months later, on November 4, the case was reclassified as premeditated murder and transferred to the Security Service of Ukraine (or SBU).
Pavlovskyi – who previously worked as an assistant to Mykola Palamarchuk, an MP from the ex-President’s party Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc (now re-branded as European Solidarity) – was initially detained on November 10, 2018 and served with charges of organizing the attack on Handziuk. Subsequently, the pre-trial detention measure was chosen in the form of detention without bail. In April 2019, the Kyiv court changed the charges from "organization" to "concealment" of the crime, and in May, released Pavlovskyi from custody and changed the measure to house arrest due to his alleged "poor health."
According to the new charges presented by the investigators on January 21, Pavlovskyi created a criminal organization that engaged in intimidation of people, damage to their property, and on-demand mass riots. The charges relate to two episodes: the arson of two cars belonging to two Kherson region businessmen Oleksandr Tsehelnyk and Yuriy Marudov in April 2018, and the riots near the Oleshky district state administration in May of the same year when deputies tried to file a no-confidence vote to Olena Kravchenko-Skalozub, the then head of the agency. Also, according to investigators, a firearm was found during a search in Pavlovskyi’s house on January 20.
Pavlovskyi’s attorneys say the new charges are unfounded because the investigation did not provide clear evidence of Pavlovskyi's involvement in the crimes. They also stated that their client is ill and cannot walk without crutches. Lawyers also claim that the weapon found at Pavlovskyi's home was planted. The suspect himself supported his lawyer’s arguments.
Commenting on his role in Handziuk's murder, Pavlovskyi referred to himself as an "innocent bystander."
"Serhiy Torbin (convicted of organizing Handziuk's murder - ed) came to me. He borrowed money as he was off to Kyiv, and said that the Chechens had burned his car. Oleksiy Levin (suspect in the case of the murder, wanted - ed.) also came to borrow money. I did not know Kateryna at all," Pavlovskyi said in the courtroom on January 21.
Asked whether he, being a parliamentary aid, had any influence over law enforcement in 2018, Pavlovskyi answered abruptly "No."
Since 2018, eight people have been charged as suspects in Handziuk's murder case. Five of them have been identified: the organizer, Serhiy Torbin, and four accomplices – Volodymyr Vasyanovich and Vyacheslav Vyshnevskyi, who followed Handziuk around, Viktor Horbunov, who sourced the acid, and Mykyta Hrabchuk, who poured the acid onto the victim.
All five confessed to the crime and agreed to a deal with prosecutors. In June 2019, the Pokrovskyi Regional Court in the Dnipropetrovsk region sentenced them to 3.5 to 6 years imprisonment. The sentence took effect in July.