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Lawyer For Russian Soldier On Trial In Ukraine Found Murdered

Yevgeny Yerofeyev (left) and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, Russian soldiers who are on trial in Ukraine. Aleksandrov's lawyer has been found dead.
Yevgeny Yerofeyev (left) and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, Russian soldiers who are on trial in Ukraine. Aleksandrov's lawyer has been found dead.

The body of a lawyer representing a Russian serviceman on trial in Ukraine was found buried on an abandoned farm with signs of violent death, Ukrainian authorities said on March 25.

Ukrainian chief military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said two men have been detained in connection with Yuriy Hrabovskiy's murder, one of whom confessed and led police to the body.

Matios said Hrabovskiy was drugged and kidnapped in Kyiv earlier this month, then taken to Odesa, where he was last seen. He was later taken to the countryside nearly 150 kilometers south of the capital where he was shot and killed.

Hrabovskiy was representing Aleksandr Aleksandrov, a serviceman captured along with another Russian, Yevgeny Yerofeyev, last year in a part of eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed separatists.

The two men admitted they were Russian officers but Moscow said they had resigned from active duty. Russia has repeatedly denied it is supplying the separatists with equipment or recruits.

Hearings in the trial of the two Russian soldiers were adjourned in early March when Hrabovskiy did not show up in court.

After Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko was convicted by a Russian court this week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would be willing to exchange the two Russian servicemen for Savchenko.

Matios told reporters that Hrabovskiy's body was found after a suspect told prosecutors about the murder and the location of his grave. Another suspect in the killing was detained later, he said.

The prosecutor did not give the motive for the killing or reveal the names of the suspects. But he said they were Ukrainian citizens and one of them used a fake special service agent ID.

Matios said that the suspects "had received a lot of money" for carrying out the killing and had created alibis.

Yuriy Hrabovskiy
Yuriy Hrabovskiy

The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 25 blamed Ukrainian authorities for failing to protect Hrabovskiy, who they said had become a victim of anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine because of his role defending the Russian serviceman.

"Despite all our warnings, Kyiv authorities were still unable or unwilling to guarantee [Hrabovskiy's] safety," the ministry said.

Amnesty International earlier this week raised an alarm about Hrabovskiy's disappearance, saying that he and the lawyer for the other defendant had been under "sustained pressure from the Ukrainian authorities" because of their role in the trial.

On March 25, Amnesty urged Ukraine to quickly bring Hrabovskiy's killers to justice.

"The killing of a criminal defense lawyer is a hideous crime and the Ukrainian authorities must immediately take all steps necessary to begin to rectify this ultimate abuse of human rights and justice,"said Amnesty senior director Anna Neistat.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and TASS
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