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New Footage Shows Final Hours Of Slain Ukrainian Lawyer

Iryna Nozdrovska is seen in a photograph that was placed near her coffin in her hometown of Demydiv on January 9.
Iryna Nozdrovska is seen in a photograph that was placed near her coffin in her hometown of Demydiv on January 9.

KYIV -- Iryna Nozdrovska's trip home on December 29 should have been routine: a short walk from her Kyiv office to a subway station, then a 31-minute ride north before taking a bus to the village of Demydiv, where it stops 150 meters from her home.

But the crusading human rights lawyer never made it.

Her body was found on New Year's Day floating in the shallow Kozka River just a kilometer down the road. She had been stabbed multiple times in what police described as a “violent death” and “revenge killing.”

On January 17, the Interior Ministry and police released security-camera footage showing the last images and movements of Nozdrovska, who was 38.

The video, published on the personal Facebook page of Interior Ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko, shows Nozdrovska walking in a heavily policed government district at about 3:40 p.m., before arriving at the Khreshchatyk metro station two minutes later. Nozdrovska, wearing a brown winter coat, does not appear to be in distress in the footage.

At 4:11 p.m., in what is the last known image of Nozdrovska, she is captured by a surveillance camera exiting the Heroiv Dnipra metro station, where she would normally catch a bus. While the news site Ukrayinska Pravda reported that a witness saw Nozdrovska waiting in line for the bus, it is unclear whether she made it on.

The last contact Nozdrovska made with anyone came in a phone call to her mother around 5 p.m., according to local media reports.

While the video footage may not reflect a break in the case, it is an important piece of evidence in terms of the timeline of the killing, and it shows the public that “the police are doing their job,” Shevchenko told RFE/RL by phone.

'A Challenge To The State'

Nozdrovska’s death comes at a crucial time.

Many observers say Ukraine’s government faces a choice between reforms promised to an increasingly impatient public following the Euromaidan protests of 2013-14 that brought it to power, or a return to the post-Soviet politics that has allowed similar high-profile cases to remain unsolved for years.

Activists and friends of Nozdrovska have held rallies in Kyiv to demand justice for her and her family.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called the Nozdrovska case “a challenge to the state.”

Ukrainian authorities have been criticized by Western governments and international rights groups for failing to produce any suspects, let alone arrests, in the brazen, daylight car-bomb assassination of Belarus-born journalist Pavel Sheremet in central Kyiv in July 2016.

WATCH: Clash In Kyiv As Protesters Seek Justice For Dead Lawyer (from January 2)

Clash In Kyiv As Protesters Seek Justice For Dead Lawyer
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Delays in a murder case in the town of Nikopol in November led the bereaved father of the victim to detonate two grenades in a courtroom, killing himself and a defendant.

The murder of journalist and co-founder of Ukrayinska Pravda Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000 is still considered only partly solved, as the masterminds remain free.

'You Will End Up Badly'

Nozdrovska had made a name for herself as a human rights lawyer and anticorruption activist. But she became famous while fighting for justice for her own sister, Svitlana Sapatinska, who was hit and killed by a car driven by the nephew of a powerful judge in 2015.

Nozdrovska succeeded in helping put the driver, Dmytro Rossoshanskyy, behind bars for seven years, a move much of the Ukrainian public and media hailed as a victory for the rule of law. Rossoshanskyy appealed the verdict, but judges rejected that request on December 27. Nozdrovska thanked the court for what she called “one of the extremely rare just court rulings" in Ukraine.

But the decision angered Rossoshanskyy’s family and friends and made Nozdrovska a target of threats, according to her own family and friends.

Ukrainian lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Facebook on January 1, after Nozdrovska’s body had turned up, that Rossoshanskyy’s father, Yuriy Rossoshanskyy, had threatened Nozdrovska at the December 27 hearing. According to Nayyem, the threat was, “You will end up badly.”

Yuriy Rossoshanskyy, seen here in court on January 9, reportedly threatened Nozdrovska at a December 27 hearing, saying, "You will end up badly."
Yuriy Rossoshanskyy, seen here in court on January 9, reportedly threatened Nozdrovska at a December 27 hearing, saying, "You will end up badly."

On January 9, authorities arrested the elder Rossoshanskyy and charged him with the murder of Nozdrovska. The Vyshgorodsky District Court of the Kyiv region ordered that he remain in custody for 60 days.

Rossoshanskyy’s DNA was found on Nozdrovska's body, the first deputy head of the National Police, Vyacheslav Abroskin, told reporters on January 10. Abroskin said Rossoshanskyy had also written a confession in the presence of police in which he asked for forgiveness.

Rossoshanskyy’s wife, Olha Rossoshanska, took issue with the confession, describing it not as a confession but as “something like a suicide note” in which he stated his readiness to assume guilt for the murder due to the “harassment” of his son, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

“Let them blame me, although I did not commit this [murder],” Rossoshanska quoted her husband as saying in the letter.

She added: “My husband is 64. He is big, but very slow. I cannot imagine how he could do it physically.”

Possible Accomplices?

Interior Ministry adviser and lawmaker Anton Herashchenko has suggested Rossoshanskyy may have had an accomplice who helped him dispose of Nozdrovska’s body. And police say they have information that at least six people, including a woman, may be involved in her murder.

Shevchenko, the Interior Ministry and National Police spokesman, said police are confident they have the right man and that it is too early to name any other suspects.

“If the evidence proves [the involvement of others], then maybe not only Rossoshanskyy will be in custody,” Shevchenko said cryptically.

In a statement accompanying the video footage of Nozdrovska posted on his Facebook page, Shevchenko called the case a “truly tragic family drama.”

'My Mother Fought For The Truth'

But that’s not how the Nozdrovska family sees it. The haste with which authorities have moved in the case has prompted concern among them and their lawyers.

At a press conference on January 11, Anastasia Nozdrovska said the material she and her lawyers were shown does not match the information given by Rossoshanskyy to police.

Moreover, she said, the police and prosecutor’s office are pushing a version of her mother’s killing that stresses a supposed conflict between the Nozdrovska and Rossoshanskyy families.

“My mother fought for the truth, not against the Rossoshanskyy family,” Anastasia Nozdrovska said.

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