Support independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe.
Donate to TOL!

× Learn more
No, thanks Photo: Abbas Atilay
back  |  printBookmark and Share

Ukrainian Activist Dies After Acid Attack

Kateryna Handziuk spoke out on corruption and the influence of pro-Russian forces in Kherson, near Crimea.

5 November 2018

Ukrainian civic activist Kateryna Handziuk died yesterday, three months after suffering severe burns in an acid attack in the southern city of Kherson.


President Petro Poroshenko called on law enforcement bodies to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice, VOA reports.


Handziuk, who was 33, campaigned against corruption and sat on the Kherson city council. She was transported to a hospital in Kyiv shortly after the 31 July attack left her with burns over 40 percent of her body, and underwent 11 operations, the BBC reports.



Her death sends a grim signal to dozens of other activists who have been targeted in the past year in incidents varying from threats to attempted murder.


About 1,000 demonstrators gathered at the Interior Ministry in Kyiv after her death was announced to hold a vigil and demand a proper investigation of the killing.


Police have identified five suspects, the Kyiv Post writes, all former fighters in a volunteer force linked to nationalist Right Sector group. The chief suspect, former Kherson policeman Serhiy Torbin, was arrested on 17 August. He denied guilt during a court hearing on 17 October.


Initially, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko blamed separatist organizations for the attack on Handziuk, Time reports, citing the Associated Press.


Many, however, see the hand of organized crime in the many attacks on campaigners against corruption and illegal construction in Odessa, the port city 100 kilometers from Kherson.


Seemingly acting on fears the local police were unable to protect critics of the Odessa authorities, the national police force and National Guard announced in late September they will intensify patrols in the city, bne Intellinews journalist Kateryna Kruk wrote.


Most of the attacks on activists took place in southern Ukraine targeted “people who are fighting against corruption and represent pro-Ukrainian views,” Kruk said.



  • Odessa was the site of one of the most dramatic clashes outside of the Donbas region conflict zone since Russia-backed separatists rebelled in 2014, when almost 50 people protesting the new government in Kyiv died in a still-unexplained building fire.


  • Handziuk refused to cooperate with Kherson police after the attack, but spoke with investigators in Kyiv. Officials reclassified the attack as a contract killing after her death. It had originally been treated as a case of hooliganism, but after a public uproar the crime was changed to “intentional injury with the purpose of intimidation” and later to attempted murder, the Kyiv Post writes.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

Homepage image via Mark1333/Youtube. 

back  |  printBookmark and Share


Transitions magazine = Your one-stop source for news, research and analysis on the post-communist region.


Sign up for the free TOL newsletter!


Moldovan diaries

The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


© Transitions Online 2018. All rights reserved. ISSN 1214-1615
Published by Transitions o.s., Baranova 33, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic.