Head of Kherson’s Regional Council Vladislav Manger, who was named a suspect in activist Kateryna Handziuk's murder on February 11, during the regional council's meeting on February 8. Photo credit: Kherson Regional Council
Vladislav Manger, the head of Kherson’s Regional Council, has been named as a key suspect in the assassination of late activist Kateryna Handziuk, according to Ukrainian prosecutors.
Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko made the announcement on February 11.
"[Vladislav Manger] is suspected of organizing murder – defined as the deliberate and unlawful causing of death to another person – which was committed with the help of mercenary elements with particular cruelty, via prior conspiracy," according to Mr. Lutsenko’s office.
Lutsenko says Handziuk was specifically targeted by Manger because of her outspoken criticism on illegal logging in the region. On December 30, the Prosecutor General said he knew who ordered Handziuk's murder but was waiting for more evidence to come through.
Manger himself rejects these charges – calling them “politically motivated” – and denies meeting Handziuk.
"I never knew this person, I never talked to her and our paths had never crossed neither politically, nor in work-related issues," Manger told Hromadske on February 11 adding that he took an unpaid vacation for the time of investigation.
"What has been happening in the past months... I know that members of the [Kherson's] Regional Council have been questioned, my friends have been questioned. None of the versions different to the prosecution's have been considered, unfortunately," he said.
Manger added that he is happy to cooperate with the prosecution and is not going to "run away anywhere."
According to the Ukrainian legal code, Manger cannot yet be detained, the Prosecutor General said during a press conference on February 11.
"Due to the change in the Criminal Procedure Code by Yanukovych’s government, we have no right to detain Manger, but we do have the right to only invite him to court. The current Constitution allows detaining only a person who is preparing for a crime, has already confessed to committing a crime," Lutsenko stated.
A court hearing on enacting preventative measures regarding Manger’s flight risk will take place on February 12.
Manger has been a long time associate of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party, but his membership was officially suspended on January 31.
On February 9, a pro-Tymoshenko rally went violent when right-wing activists from C14 organization clashed with police as they tried to enter a police station in Kyiv. The activists were demanding justice in the killing of Handziuk.