KYIV -- The National Police office of the Kyiv region says activist attorney Iryna Nozdrovska died of multiple stab wounds in what was described as a “violent death.”
The statement on January 3 came two days after Nozdrovska’s body was found floating in a river in Kyiv's Vyshhorod district.
“There were stab wounds on the body, on her neck, and on her chin…It was a violent death," said Nikolai Zhukovich of the police press service.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on January 2 called the killing "a challenge to the state" as authorities, facing public outrage, opened a murder investigation.
Klimkin said in comments on Twitter that this is "a test of our society's ability to protect female activists and to ensure justice as a whole."
Nozdrovska, 38, was reported missing on December 29 after she helped to make sure the man convicted of causing the death of her sister was not released from prison, in a high-profile case that was seen as a test of the Ukrainian justice system's ability to fairly prosecute people with links to people in power.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv expressed "shock" over the killing and hundreds of people rallied in Kyiv demanding a thorough investigation.
On Twitter, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said it was “shocked and saddened by the death of activist Iryna #Nozdrovska" and said that "those responsible must be brought to justice."
The demonstrators in Kyiv on January 2 demanded that the murder investigation be conducted by Kyiv city investigators, saying they did not trust regional law enforcement officers. They also demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Nozdrovska was the target of threats for her efforts in the case of Dmytro Rossoshanskyy, who was convicted of causing the death of Nozdrovska’s sister, Svitlana Sapatinska, in 2015 when he hit her while driving his car.
Judges rejected an appeal by Rossoshanskyy, the nephew of a Kyiv oblast judge, to overturn under an amnesty his seven-year prison term on December 27, thanks in large part to efforts by Nozdrovska to raise public awareness about the case.
Nozdrovska and others mentioned that the young man’s “drug-addict mates” had come to the court to take him home ahead of his expected release. She thanked the judges for what she called “one of the extremely rare just court rulings."
Ukrainian lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Facebook on January 1 that Rossoshanskyy's father had threatened Nozdrovska at the December 27 hearing. According to Nayyem, the threat was, "You will end up badly."
AFP reported that the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group in a statement said Nozdrovska had received threats during the trial "from Rossoshanskyy himself, and from his mates."
In Ukraine, relatives of officials often either get away with crimes or manage to get released earlier due to corruption, which observers say harms the country's everyday life and economy.