A Ukrainian man has been sentenced to forty days in prison in Bulgaria while awaiting extradition to Ukraine where he is wanted in connection with the murder of the activist Kateryna Handziuk.
Oleksiy Moskalenko, 42, was detained in the Black Sea coastal city of Burgas on the basis of an Interpol arrest notice issued by Ukraine.
Police say Moskalenko had changed his appearance to evade facial recognition and was eventually identified by way of a fingerprint match. He had been renting a house owned by a Ukrainian woman in the city, after crossing into Bulgaria from Romania by foot in 2018.
Bulgaria’s Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak handed over the extradition documents to the Bulgarian law enforcement authorities on January 24, before meeting with the Prosecutor General of Bulgaria, Ivan Geshev, to discuss Moskalenko’s extradition.
His arrest is thought to have been spurred by a recent operation in the Ukrainian city of Kherson targeting a criminal organisation linked to local politicians in the region.
Kateryna Handziuk worked as a counsellor for the mayor of the city of Kherson, where she had established herself as a prominent anti-corruption campaigner focusing especially on abuses in the country’s law enforcement agencies.
She was leaving home early on the morning of July 31 when a man threw a litre of acid on her and then fled. She was immediately hospitalised in a serious condition, with burns to 30 percent of the body, before succumbing to her injuries in November 2018.
Investigators say she was killed for accusing local politicians of stealing from the local budget and of illegal logging in the region.
Five men were convicted last year for carrying out the attack and given prison sentences ranging between 6 1/2 and 3 years. However the investigation continues into her ordered Handziuk’s murder.
Moskalenko has been charged with” intended grievous bodily injury, which caused [the] death of the victim” and faces up to 10 years in prison in Ukraine if found guilty.