Ukraine rape victim searches for justice (VIDEOS)

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March 23, 2012, 9:36 a.m. | Ukraine — by Associated Press

Oksana Makar

The 18-year-old woman, prosecutors say, was gang-raped by three young men, who tried to cover up their crime by strangling her with a cord, wrapping her naked body in a blanket and dumping her at an abandoned construction site — where they set her on fire. Amazingly, Oksana Makar survived.

But her quest for justice seemed doomed after the police released two of the three suspects whose parents had political connections in the provincial Ukrainian region.

Her case galvanized Ukrainians fed up with the official corruption that allows people with money and connections to avoid punishment, whether for violating traffic laws or more serious crimes. The protection also extends to their children, known here as "mazhory," roughly translated as rich brats.

After a national protest campaign, the police arrested the two released suspects and charged all three with rape. The one who has remained in custody was also charged with attempted murder.

Makar remains hospitalized in serious condition, with burns over more than half of her body and severe damage to her lungs. Her right arm was amputated to stop the spread of gangrene.

The video of Oksana Makar's conversation with her mother in the hospital.

Her mother said she used to be a cheerful young woman with many friends in Mykolaiv, a shipbuilding city of about a half million residents some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of the capital, Kiev. She liked dancing in clubs, boxing and bungee jumping.

That life ended on March 9 when Makar met two young men at a bar and they invited her to a friend's apartment.

One suspect, identified as Yevhen K., told investigators that he and two friends had sex with Makar repeatedly, including at least one time that he admitted was rape.

A videotape of his interrogation, whose authenticity has been confirmed by authorities, was shown on Ukrainian television: "She yelled and swung her arms around and I raped her," said the 23-year-old suspect.

After Makar threatened to call police, the suspect said he first tried to strangle her with his bare hands and then finish her off with a piece of white cable he found in the apartment. She lost consciousness.

The suspect said he and his friends wrapped Makar's naked body in a blanket and dumped it into a pit at a deserted construction site. He said he then dropped a pillow case into the pit and set it on fire.

Afterward, he said, they went home and changed into new clothes. They bought vodka at a store and went to a food stand, where one suspect ordered tea and the other a beer.

"We sat down, had a smoke and then went our own ways," said Yevhen K., the suspect accused of attempted murder as well as rape.

Makar was saved when a passing car happened to stall right next to the construction site. The three suspects were soon arrested, and two set free.

Leaked video of Evhen Krasnoschek's interrogation, where he describes his crime in details.

Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko has confirmed that the parents of two of the suspects are former government officials in the Mykolaiv region. Makar's mother, Tetyana Surovitska, accused police of freeing them because of their parents' connections.

"Where is justice?" Surovitska said in an interview with a local television channel. "Is it because I don't have cars and apartments and connections and I cannot turn to anyone?"

She received overwhelming support not only in Mykolaiv but across the country from people tired of seeing government officials and their children go unpunished for violent crimes, including assault and deadly road accidents.

There have been dozens of cases of "mazhory" driving expensive cars while drunk and hitting pedestrians, sometimes killing them, and walking away, said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko. The same thing often happens in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

"Unfortunately, this situation is typical of most post-Soviet countries when either connections or corruption is used: A high-ranking official makes a call or money is paid to a senior police official, and a person who committed a serious crime is set free," Fesenko said.

"The Ukrainian justice system is dependent on those with power and money."

Makar's case clearly hit a nerve among Ukrainians, setting off several protests in Mykolaiv and elsewhere.

During one rally in Mykolaiv, dozens of activists protested outside the offices of prosecutors and police, demanding that they punish the perpetrators of the rape as well as the officers who released the two suspects.

Protests, organized on social networking sites, were also held in the Black Sea port of Odessa and the eastern city of Kharkiv. In Kiev, five members of the women's rights group Femen, which stages topless protests, bared their chests on top of the entrance to the Prosecutor General's Office and held banners reading "Death to the Sadists" and "Execute the Bastards."

Meanwhile, dozens of Mykolaiv residents rushed to donate blood for Makar and sympathizers from across the country sent donations to her mother. Makar is in a hospital in the eastern city of Donetsk, waiting to be operated on by a burn specialist from Switzerland.

The Prosecutor General's Office is investigating Surovitska's claims that the suspects were released illegally.

President Viktor Yanukovych is also looking into the case.

To Surovitska, the high-level interest is little consolation as she cares for her only daughter.

"She loved life so much, but they destroyed her body, her soul and her spirit," Surovitska said in a phone interview. "They destroyed my child."
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gary yellando March 23, 2012, 10:13 a.m.    

Yanko will sort it out and let the bastards free....It is .gang-land Ukraine now......why did Ukraines vote for this..

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Phill M March 23, 2012, 6:10 p.m.    

It is sad that, given the state of the Ukrainian justice system, so much goes unpunished, and sometimes when punishment does fall, it falls upon the victim, not the assailant.

G.K. Chesterton, a Christian philosopher and writer, wrote, though the words of Father Brown, about retribution and justice.


&quot;I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry. The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person.&quot;


This may be the only hope that justice will happen on those who deserve it in Ukraine.

As for Oksana Makar, we pray that, though her body may be destroyed, her soul and spirit will be restored

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Ivar Bjorlo March 24, 2012, 4:22 p.m.    

I am very sorry to read about Oksana Makar. We can not accept such things. I hope that she gets the best kind of treatment in hospital. I HATE BAD PEOPLE!!!

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Ivar Bjorlo March 24, 2012, 4:42 p.m.    

Please give a kiss to Oksana from me. She needs support from all of us.

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Gene Nelson March 25, 2012, 11:20 p.m.    

I cannot believe the govt is not up in arms about this horrible, horrible crime.

I expect little from this govt, but this is even more than a crime against humanity.

It is one of the more vicious attacks against the little humanity remaining with this govt.

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