UPDATED: Police Apprehend Suspect in Ukrainian Lawyer's Murder
8 January, 2018

Ukrainian law enforcement has apprehended a suspect in the killing of lawyer Iryna Nozdrovska, whose murder shocked Ukraine and sparked protests in Kyiv. The detention came less than a day after Nozdrovska's daughter called on the public to "control" the investigation into her mother's killing.

On December 8, the Interior Ministry announced the arrest. Initially, details remained scant. Later, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov confirmed the news on Twitter.

"Yes, the police have detained a suspect in the murder of Nozdrovska. The evidence is more than weighty," Avakov wrote. "No need for conjecture — the information will be fully disclosed after the ongoing investigative actions are concluded — tomorrow. I thank the police for their service." 

The suspect is a relative of the man convicted of killing Nozdrovska's sister in an automobile accident in 2015, the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper reported, citing law enforcement sources. 

The Ukrainska Pravda report partially confirmed an earlier Facebook post by Aider Muzhdabaev, the deputy director of the ATR Crimean Tatar television network.

“People acquainted with the investigation told me that the murderer has been discovered,” Muzhdabaev wrote. “He turned out to be a close relative of the man who struck her sister with his car and then, thanks to Iryna’s perseverance, was handed down a criminal sentence. As I was told, the suspect confessed to the murder last night under pressure of evidence.”

Protesters gather in central Kyiv to demand justice for Iryna Nozdrovska. Photo: Dmytro Replianchuk/Hromadske

On December 29, Nozdrovska disappeared after leaving work. Three days later, her naked body was found in a river near Kyiv. Just days before her death, Nozdrovska had helped prevent the release of Dmytro Rossoshansky, the nephew of an influential judge, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for killing Nozdrovska’s sister, Svitlana Sapatanyska.

Rossoshansky was driving under the influence when he struck and killed 26-year-old Sapatanyska on September 30, 2015. He reportedly saw Sapatanyska, but failed to brake for her. After hitting her, he phoned his father instead of calling an ambulance.

Rossoshansky was initially placed under house arrest and only received a prison sentence in May 2017. As the nephew of Serhiy Kuprienko, the chief of the Vyshhorod District Court, it appeared that he might escape justice. However, on December 27, a judge rejected Rossoshansky’s appeal against his sentence. The next day, Nozdrovska thanked the judges in a Facebook post, describing the ruling as one of the “extremely rare fair decisions.”

Throughout her work on the case against Rossoshansky, the lawyer received near constant threats from the convicted killer’s family and friends. Despite strong evidence, it took almost two years for the courts to hand down a prison sentence for Rossoshansky — a result that was largely thanks to Nozdrovska.

Nozdrovska's killing sparked widespread outrage in Ukraine, with around 200 protesters gathering in Kyiv on January 2 to demand justice. 

On January 7, a day before the suspect was arrested in the case, Nozdrovska's daughter Anastasiya called on the public to maintain pressure on the authorities to prevent them from “putting the brakes” on the investigation into her mother’s murder.

“Personally, I doubt in this investigation, in the law enforcement system...Mom always struggled against [these investigators], so they don’t inspire my trust,” Anastasiya Nozdrovska told Voice of America in an interview on December 7. “And if the case had not gained such public resonance, they would have continued to do nothing.”

Iryna Nozdrovska will be buried in Kyiv tomorrow, on January 9.

/By Matthew Kupfer