Ukrainian authorities arrested Ihor Pavlovskiy, the former aide to Poroshenko Bloc MP Mykola Palamarchuk, in connections with the horrific murder of civil society activist Kateryna Handzuik, who was doused with acid and died of her wounds on November 4.
Pavlovskiy is accused of participating in the attack this summer in the town of Kherson that put Handziuk in hospital with chemical burns to 30% of her body. Pavlovskiy was detained by Security Service agents on murder charges, according to various news reports, but the identity of the person that ordered the killing has not been established. A court denied Pavlovskiy bail.
"The court arrested Pavlovsky in the Handziuk case. The SBU detained him on Saturday on the suspicion he was an accomplice," Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlianska told the Kyiv-based Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Civic activists claim Pavlovskiy acted as the intermediary between those who ordered the July 31 acid attack and the perpetrators. Five other men were arrested earlier accused of carrying out the attack.
Palamarchuk has been accused of ordering the attack, but has denied all knowledge. The Poroshenko Bloc issued a statement the same day on Palamarchuk’s behalf declaring his innocence.
Palamarchuk had already dismissed Pavlovskiy as his aide once he learned that he was a suspect in the murder. “I declare that I, like no one else, am interested in an objective and quickest possible investigation of the crime against Kateryna Handziuk, as well as establishing all those responsible for this crime,” the statement said. “I stated and I continue to state that I don’t have any relation neither to the murder, nor any events related to Kateryna Handziuk.”
In all there have been 55 attacks on civil society activists this year, including two fatalities, but the police have arrested no one.
“Although numerous Ukrainian activists have been attacked or even killed in recent years, Handziuk’s case has drawn the attention of Western authorities because of the gruesome nature of her murder (acid attack), as well as her having worked for various Western-sponsored NGOs in Ukraine. We believe this is the main motivation for the Prosecutor General’s Office ordering Pavlovskiy’s arrest,” Zenon Zawada of Concorde Capital said in a note. “Now the question becomes whether he will name the orderers of the acid attack. Among those suspected by civic activists is Poroshenko Bloc MP Palamarchuk. If Pavlovskiy names Palamarchuk, we believe the Poroshenko Bloc will be willing to exclude him from its parliamentary faction, strip his political immunity and allow for his prosecution. Again, this would happen only because this case has drawn the attention of Western authorities, who will base their cooperation with Ukraine on various efforts on whether Handziuk’s killers are prosecuted.”