2016-03-26 08:50:00

Mysterious killing of lawyer causes more tension between Ukraine and Russia

(Vatican Radio) Tensions are rising between Kiev and Moscow as a Ukrainian lawyer of an alleged Russian special forces soldier was found dead after disappearing in the middle of the soldier's trial. Ukraine's chief military prosecutor confirmed that lawyer Yuriy Hrabovskyi, who was declared missing early this month, had been shot dead. Hrabovskyi's body was reportedly found in a forest some 125 kilometers (78 miles) south of Ukraine's capital Kiev.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Hrabovskyi was representing Aleksandr Aleksandrov. He was detained with another Russian citizen -- Yevgeny Yerofeyev -- in eastern Ukraine in May 2015.

Kiev has accussed Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev of involvement in terrorist activities and fighting alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east. In a video published after their capture, both men said they were on active duty with the Russian military in eastern Ukraine when they were captured.

However, Moscow denies the allegations saying they were no longer employed by the state.

The two captured men were mentioned by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as being part of a possible prisoner swap with Russia. He wants to release them in exchange for Ukrainian citizens including Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko. A Russian court sentenced her to 22 years imprisonment for allegedly killing two Russian journalists.


Savchenko denies the charges and says she was abducted in Ukraine and illegally brought to Russia in July 2014.

Another Ukrainian on Kiev's wishlist is filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, a native of Crimea who was detained in May 2014 on terrorism charges and later sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

He also denies the allegations and says they are retaliation for his vocal criticism of Russia's 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council has approved targeted economic and other sanctions against 54 individuals involved in prosecuting pilot Savchenko and filmmaker Sentsov.

Kiev already imposed similar measures on more than 400 Russian citizens and companies following Russia's annexation of Crimea and the ensuing pro-Russian separatist uprising in the east that has now killed more than 9,000 people.

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