UPDATED: Police May Be Involved in Acid Attack on Kherson Activist
1 August, 2018

Head of NGO Human Rights Information Center Tetyana Pechonchyk believes that local police could be involved in the July 31 acid attack on civic activist Kateryna Handziuk in Kherson.

Handziuk is in hospital suffering from 30% burns following an acid attack near her home in Kherson, southern Ukraine, on July 31. After spending almost two days in intensive care in Kherson, Handziuk was then transferred to a hospital in Kyiv.

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Pechonchyk told Hromadske that there are cases where the police do not investigate such attacks, but instead take the side of the perpetrators.

“Regarding Kateryna Handziuk, there could be such motive, as she has actively criticized corruption in the local police, and, in fact, that could be one of the motives behind the attack itself,” Pechonchyk adds.

Photo credit: Bohdan Kutiepov/HROMADSKE

Handziuk works as an advisor to the Mayor of Kherson. She is also a vocal critic of the local police and government. In fall 2017, she accused head of the Kherson Regional Police’s Economic Protection Department Artem Antoshchuk of bribery. Antoshchuk even took Handziuk to court over the allegations and won, but the activist only had to partially refute her claims.

What’s more, this is not the first time outspoken critics of the local authorities in Kherson have been targeted. Last month, Serhiy Nikitenko, a journalist with the local online publication Most (Bridge), was severely beaten up. He believes his civic stance and journalistic work to be the reasons behind the attack.

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The day of the attack, Ukrainian branch of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International also issued a statement expressing similar concerns over the way in which local police deal with such attacks. The statement urges local police to “not let the whole case go” in light of Handziuk’s criticism of them.

"The police must show the society that attacks against social activists are a crime, and the perpetrators must and will be brought to justice," Transparency International Ukraine adds.  

Photo credit: Olesya Bida/HROMADSKE

At first, the attack was treated as an act of hooliganism. However, on August 1, the Kherson police announced in a press briefing that they were now investigating the case as attempted murder.  

The investigators believe that the perpetrator could have been working with accomplices, who were waiting in a getaway vehicle nearby.  

On August 1, Handziuk’s lawyer Masi Nayem wrote on Facebook that the police had granted her request for protection and that her client was currently being guarded.

/By Sofia Fedeczko