Back in December 2018, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko said that the investigation had established all the customers and organizers of the murder of a public activist and adviser to the mayor of Kherson Kateryna Handziuk. At the same time, he added that there were several dozen versions of this crime, but the investigation nevertheless singled out the main one. “The motive is Kateryna Handziuk’s activity against one of the major corruption schemes of local authorities,” Lutsenko claimed, but he didn’t name the customers, saying that the investigation would do this when getting enough evidence.
Who is Vladyslav Manger
Vladyslav Manger, Head of the Kherson Regional Council, has been officially informed that he is suspected of ordering the savage acid attack which killed Kateryna Handziuk. February 11, Lutsenko read out the entire notification issued to Manger, and presented pictures allegedly showing how the people suspected of involvement in the crime were linked.
The official is accused of a crime under Articles 27 § 3, 11.4, 11.6, and 115.12 § 2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code. That is the organization of the deliberate murder of a person committed out of mercenary motives, by request, with particular cruelty, by prior agreement of a group of persons.
Manger’s role in Handziuk assassination
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists about role Head of the Kherson Regional Council in organizing Handziuk’s murder.
"He stands at the top of this crime. It was he who ordered and partially organized it through his financing," the prosecutor general said.
Lutsenko began to read the full text of the suspicion to the official:
"At the beginning of July 2018, citizen Vladyslav Manger, guided by personal hostility that arose on the basis of active public activity (protection of forests, - ed.) of Kateryna Handziuk, which impedes his vested interests, decided to organize an intentional murder of Kateryna Handziuk in a manner that inflicts the injured special physical and moral suffering."
According to the document, the official turned to citizens Oleksiy Levin (Moskalenko) and Igor Pavlovsky, who were previously familiar to him, and asked them to find the perpetrators and organize the murder of the activist. They agreed and took money from Manger in the amount of not less 350 USD for the acquisition of necessary means of communication and the purchase of a murder weapon.
In addition, the official agreed the amount of remuneration for the murder itself - about 5,600 USD.
What do we know about Manger?
Vladyslav Manger is 48 years old. He is an experienced politician, chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, the candidate of economic sciences and father of two children.
He has four higher education diplomas (agronomist scientist, lawyer, master of finance, accounting and auditing specialist), but still continues to study (government management).
Over 31 years of work experience from the mechanic of the Black Sea Shipping Company, he has grown to the top management position. In 2007 he was appointed president of the Kherson regional organization of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine, and in 2012 he became vice-president of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine.
In 2013, he became a member of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna. Several times he was nominated from this political force as a candidate for local and all-Ukrainian elections: in 2014, he took the fourth place in the elections to the Verkhovna Rada in the 182nd electoral district, and in 2015 he ranked third in the elections for the Kherson city mayor. But with the first rumors about the possible involvement in the murder of Kateryna Handziuk he was expelled from the party.
According to the declaration for 2018, Manger owns only a 2004 BMW. The total official income for the year is 22,000 USD. At the same time, he keeps about 2,000 USD, 765 EUR and 11,700 UAH (400 USD) on bank accounts, 280,000 UAH (10,000 USD) in cash.
Although the news was welcomed by the civic initiative ‘Who ordered Katya Handziuk’s murder?’, the publicity around the Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko’s announcement did elicit accusations that this was a political move from the party Manger is associated with, and concern given the different political affiliations of three politicians, whose names have been mentioned in connection with the case.
Other "hard-hitting" defendants in the case
January 28, Viktor Handziuk, the father of the deceased activist, issued a statement in which he said that he suspected three people of having organized his daughter’s killing. He identified both the three high-ranking officials and the parties they were affiliated with, these being Manger, from Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, the Head of the Kherson Regional Administration Andriy Hordeyev and his Deputy, Yevhen Ryshchuk, both of whom are from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko. He went on to say that “for me, Batkivshchyna is the party of my daughter’s killers. For me, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko is the party of my daughter’s killers.”
Prosecutor General stated there was no evidence of Hordeyev’s involvement in Handziuk’s murder. He did, however, say that Ryshchuk was being checked for any involvement in the murder, while also asserting that there was no proof of his “being aware of the plan of Manger and the other’s involved in Handziuk’s killing.” He added that there was evidence “suggesting probable corrupt activities linked with the burning of the forest by the Deputy Head of the Kherson Regional State Administration.”
The fact that Lutsenko finds evidence of the involvement of Tymoshenko’s entourage and does not find evidence of Poroshenko’s associates involvement might mean that the case is adjusted to the pre-election struggle (presidential elections in Ukraine are scheduled for March 31, 2019). In addition, a few days ago pro-SBU (for which read, pro-Poroshenko) far-right organization C14, included in the American terrorist base, came with rubber-bullet handguns, knives, and Teren 4 pepper spray (carrying of which requires special permission) to Tymoshenko’s meeting, held in Kyiv downtown, allegedly to discuss with Yulia Tymoshenko “who killed Handziuk.”
Handziuk was doused with sulphuric acid near her apartment on 31 July 2018. She received burns to around 35% of her body and needed to be airlifted to a hospital in Kyiv where she underwent 11 operations. November 4, it became known that Kateryna Handziuk died aged 34. According to preliminary information, the death was caused by thrombus detachment.
The attack was very widely publicized, and within hours of an initial attempt to qualify the attack as hooliganism, this was changed to ‘causing grave bodily injuries in order to intimidate a person’, with this later to become murder.