Friday

18th Oct 2019

Ukraine death highlights danger in EU neighbourhood

  • The 'Euromaidan' revolution in 2014 began with anti-corruption protests (Photo: streetwrk.com)

The death of an anti-corruption activist in Ukraine has raised the alarm on internal violence in the EU neighbour.

Kateryna Handziuk, a 33-year old activist and local councillor, died in hospital on Sunday (4 November), three months after her attack.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Kateryna Handziuk had exposed corruption in local police in Kherson, southern Ukraine (Photo: http://khpg.org)

She became a symbol of the growing danger for civil society and journalists after recording a video clip from her bed in September.

Some 40 others had also suffered attacks in the past year with apparent impunity, she said at the time, showing her own injuries, after a man had doused her head in sulphuric acid outside her home.

"Why do we encourage people to civic activism when we can't defend them?", Handziuk asked.

There were more than 50 attacks in Ukraine this year alone, international NGOs Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and Freedom House said last month.

They included other fatalities - people were shot, stabbed, or found hung in suspicious circumstances.

They mostly targeted those like Handziuk, who confronted "corruption in the local community", such as local police.

But lawyers, gay rights campaigners, environmentalists, and journalists were also at risk, the NGOs said.

Some 143 reporters had suffered attacks, including a fatal car bomb, since the start of 2017, Ukraine's National Union of Journalists said on Sunday.

Poroshenko

The spike in violence threatens the authority of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko ahead of elections in March.

It also threatens his EU credibility as Ukraine tries to align itself with the West despite Russia's aggression in the east of the country.

Poroshenko vowed "to do everything possible to ensure that the killers [of Handziuk] are found ... and punished" when news of her death came out.

He did it under international scrutiny, with the EU commissioner on Ukraine relations, Johannes Hahn, saying: "Attacks against civil society activists are unacceptable. The perpetrators of this vicious crime must be brought to justice."

Handziuk's death also "shocked" Harlem Desir, the French diplomat in charge of media freedom at the the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"The perpetrators of this terrible crime must be brought to justice," Desir said.

The OSCE, a security club, monitors the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian forces in east Ukraine.

It recorded 230 explosions in the Donetsk region and 70 in the Luhansk region, as well as movement of prohibited weaponry, in its last report.

Corruption

News of corruption in Ukraine has in the past fed EU scepticism on building closer ties, in countries such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands, despite Western sympathy on the difficulty of reform in war time.

It has slowed EU decisions on financial aid and other perks, such as visa-free travel.

It now comes at unstable times in EU politics, with a pro-Russian government in Italy threatening to veto the renewal of EU economic sanctions on Russia in December.

But for his part, Poroshenko's general prosecutor and political ally - Yuriy Lutsenko - did little to reassure friends of Ukraine in the Handziuk case.

"The blame for this situation lies not only with bandit elements and poor work of the law enforcement bodies, but also in the atmosphere of total hatred to the authorities which some civic activists stir up," he said in September, effectively blaming her for her own attack the same day her video clip came out.

EU draws red lines round Ukraine

The EU has roundly criticised Russian aggression in Ukraine amid concern that US leader Donald Trump might break Western ranks.

Interview

Ukraine eyes €500m EU aid, while fighting corruption

Kiev is hoping to secure more than €500m in EU aid by July, amid its never-ending fight against corruption. The finance minister tells EUobserver the prosecutor general should resign - meanwhile privatisations of 3,500 state-owned companies go ahead, despite war.

EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Remarks to Congress by the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, have shed light on the unusual nature of American diplomacy under president Donald Trump.

Macron warned on danger of Balkans veto

France's veto on North Macedonia enlargement will endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, a senior EU official has warned, but diplomats do not expect Macron to change his mind.

News in Brief

  1. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  2. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  3. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  4. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  5. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  6. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed
  7. Kurds agree with US-Turkey ceasefire but not safe-zone
  8. US to host 2020 G7 summit at Trump golf club

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us