KYIV, Nov 6 - Ukraine’s chief prosecutor offered to resign on Tuesday amid a growing scandal over the authority’s handling of the murder of anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handziuk, the Financial Times reported.
Handziuk died on Sunday three months after being attacked with sulphuric acid in the southern city of Kherson. Critics have accused Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Yury Lutsenko, and the country’s police of failing to properly investigate the attack on 33-year-old Handziuk, who continued to speak out against corruption from her hospital bed before succumbing to complications from her injuries.
The brutal killing — and claims that an influential politician may have ordered it — shocked Ukrainians and has drawn attention to dozens of other unsolved attacks on activists and journalists in recent years.
Reporting to parliament on Tuesday, Mr Lutsenko said he would tender his resignation in protest at what he said were politically motivated claims by opponents that the authorities had sought to cover up the crime. He said investigators were close to solving Handziuk’s murder.
Mr Lutsenko told MPs that a group suspected of organising and carrying out the crime had been detained and faced life sentences. But he also said that leaks and the alleged exploitation of the case by politicians with one eye on next year’s Ukrainian elections were hampering efforts to confirm who had ordered the killing.
He accused the legislature of routinely failing to sanction the arrest of MPs suspected of corruption and said critics were using Handziuk’s killing as “PR in their battle for power”.
A test vote in parliament then failed to secure the number needed to remove him. Just 38 MPs voted in favour, well short of the required 226 votes. Officials from Ukraine’s top western backers, the EU and US, have echoed concerns of human rights organisations and domestic activists in urging Ukraine’s authorities to solve the Handziuk case and a flurry other attacks on activists and journalists.
Transparency International, a non-governmental organisation, said that “attacks on activists in Ukraine like Kateryna Handziuk . . . must not go unpunished. All those responsible must face justice.”
Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the US state department, said: “Attacks on Ukraine’s civil society must stop. Those responsible for ordering and committing this horrific attack must be brought to justice.” (ft/ez)