Ukrainian lawyer seeking justice for killed sister found dead

Iryna Nozdrovska, a lawyer who had sought justice for her sister who was killed by an intoxicated driver. Photo: Iryna's fb page 

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For two years, she was determined not to let the killer of her little sister walk free. Unfortunately, it is likely that the influential relatives of the killer turned out to be stronger.

Iryna Nozdrovska, a lawyer who had on 27 December 2017 managed to prevent the release of the killer of her sister from imprisonment, was found dead on 1 January near Kyiv after being missing for two days. After several days of search efforts undertaken by activists and the police, the Ministry of Interior confirmed in a press release that the naked body found in a river in the Kyiv Oblast was that of Ms. Nozdovska, noting that a criminal investigation has been launched into the first-degree murder.

After her sister Svitlana Sapatinska had been run over by a car driven by Dmytro Rossoshanskyi on 30 September 2015, Ms. Nozdrovska was determined to bring him to justice. Rossoshanskyi, who lived in the same village as Sapatinska, was likely intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, because he didn’t stop after hitting Sapatinska, but continued driving and dragged the woman a few meters, killing her on the spot, and orphaning her 4-year old son.

Svitlana was 26, she left behind a 4-year old son. Photo: fb page of Iryna Nozdrovska

Svitlana Sapatinska was 26, she left behind a 4-year old son. Photo: fb page of Iryna Nozdrovska

Rossoshanskyi, a former drug addict who had previously committed grave offenses which went unpunished, turned out to be the nephew of an influential judge in the Vyshhorod regional court. In Ukraine, this meant establishing justice was nearly hopeless. But Nozdrovska, a lawyer by training, left her work and for two years pursued the establishment of justice for her little sister. The result was a verdict of 7 years in jail, delivered at the end of May 2017.

On 27 December 2017, Rossoshansky’s defense was close to receiving an amnesty for him on the basis of his drug-related illnesses; however, “thanks to the civic society who controlled this case for two years in a row,” the court of appeals prolonged his arrest for 60 days in order to consider additional evidence, an exhilarated Iryna wrote on her fb page. The culprit could not be amnestied if it was proven that he was in a state of narcotic intoxication while driving.

Volodymyr Tymofiychuk, a journalist who covered the process from the start, told Fakty.ua that Ms. Nozdrovska had received multiple threats from the culprit and his friends, and one day they beat up her daughter Nastia. During the last court hearing on 27 December, Rossoshanskyi’s father told her: “You will end up badly.”  The next day, she went missing.

An interview which Ms. Nozdrovska gave to Obozrevatel shed light on the circles of hell that the woman went through to seek justice for her killed sister over two years, for which she left her job. Here are some excerpts:

  • After hitting Sapatinska, Rossoshanskyi didn’t call the ambulance, but called to consult his father;
  • The investigative team arrived at the spot a whole four hours later;
  • She received hints that bribes were necessary for the court to choose jail as a provisional measure for Rossoshanskyi instead of house arrest;
  • After the judge in the Vyshhorod court chose house arrest, Iryna managed to move the case to another court where Rossoshanskyi’s uncle wasn’t so influential, which was instrumental to establishing the 7-year verdict;
  • The analyses to determine the presence of drugs in Rossoshanskyi’s blood were falsified: the probe was switched during transportation, and the necessary medical assessment by a narcologist was done on another person, not Rossoshanskyi;
  • It were actions of Nozdovska and lawyers which made the investigation pursue actions, from questioning witnesses to establishing facts, while the police sabotaged the investigation. Much of the proof of Rossoshanskyi’s guilt was presented directly in court by Iryna Nozdrovska.

Iryna Nozdrovska’s selfless quest gave her late sister’s relatives hope that justice does exist in Ukraine. With her murder, the future of Rossoshansky’s case now hangs in mid air. There is no certainty that her death will be investigated properly. Together with the botched renewal of the Supreme Court and release of the murderers of Euromaidan activists, these worrying developments give reason to fear that the judicial reform Ukrainian President Poroshenko so flaunts will end up no better than the law enforcement reform, which produced thousands of photogenic patrol police officers, but kept the rotten system which would have allowed the killer of a 24-year old woman to walk free, if it wasn’t for the dedication of Nozdrovska.

On 2 January, a rally will be held in central Kyiv, demanding to investigate the murderers of Nozdrovska, and provide a bodyguard for her daughter.

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