Day 767: Missing Ukrainian Lawyer of Captured Russian GRU Officer Found Dead

March 25, 2016
Ukrainian attorney Yury Grabovsky, counsel for captured GRU officer Aleksandr Aleksandrov. disappeared March 9, 2016 and was reportedly found dead March 25.


Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


OSCE Monitors Shot At In Two Different Locations Near Lines Of Contact North Of Donetsk

As we have been reporting for some time now, there has been significant escalation in fighting north of Donetsk, particularly near Avdeyevka, an area which has been embattled since the fight for Donetsk Airport which ended over a year ago. Russian-backed fighters have stepped up their attacks in this area, and Ukraine has responded in kind. The result is that the battle lines are getting closer and closer together.

The head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Alexander Hug, reports that not only has fighting escalated this week, but that his monitors have been under fire in two locations:

Let’s take a close look at both of these locations on the map, courtesy of

2016-03-25 14:34:17

Hug warned that it’s not just Donetsk that has seen worrisome activity this week: 

Reading between the lines, Hug is warning that not only is violence increasing and the battle lines getting closer, but it’s becoming harder to monitor the fighting. This is concerning since it’s already safe the say that there is more fighting, and sometimes much more fighting, than the OSCE can possibly observe.

James Miller

Supporters of Nadiya Savchenko Put On Trial In Belarus After Protesting Outside Russian Embassy In Minsk
Ukrainian pilot, MP, and PACE council member Nadiya Savchenko has been sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison for the murder of two Russian journalists who were killed in Ukraine — a crime that is likely not a crime at all, and one which the evidence shows she did not commit (for an overview of the Savchenko case, see our special report):
Today a group of Savchenko supporters in Belarus are facing a trial of their own. 

The Belarusian outlet Belsat reports:

At least 10 persons will be tried today in Tsentralny district court in Minsk. All of them participated in the picket in support of Nadiya Savchenko near the Russian Embassy on March, 9. 

Aktivists Natallia Mahnach, Ryhor Cherkan, Natallia Basalyha, Yauhen Batura, Halina Lukashevich, Volha Nikalaychyk, Uladzimir Shypila, Natallia Mitskevich, Natallia Samatyya, Aleh Gayeuski were summoned to appear before court, human rights centre Viasna reports.

One of the picketers say that protocols were drawn up on other activists as well. However, it is still unknown whether they received subpoenas.

Belarus is often referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship (though at this point that title might rely on a geographical understanding that places Moscow outside of Europe). It’s also a close ally of the Kremlin’s, though that alliance is more complicated than many suspect. At the end of the day, though, protests — especially protests outside the Russian embassy — rarely go unnoticed by the Belarusian authorities.

James Miller

Missing Ukrainian Lawyer of Captured Russian GRU Officer Found Dead
MediaZone reports that Yury Grabovsky, the lawyer for accused GRU officer Aleksandr Aleksandrov who went missing 3 weeks ago has been found dead, according to a statement by the National Association of Attorneys of Ukraine on their web site.
On March 9, Grabovsky was reported missing, and a notice appeared on his Facebook page “I have been forced to leave Ukraine against my will.”

2016-03-25 08:19:29

He added that he was safe and didn’t know when he would return but hoped to come back to Ukraine some day. His geotag was Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt, a popular Russian resort area until the Metrojet airline crash.  

That was a red flag for many of his acquaintances and they declared him missing the next day. The authorities opened up a murder case and soon found his passport, without which he couldn’t have flown abroad.

On March 20, Ukrainian chief military prosecutor Anatoly Matios announced that a suspect had been detained who had “organized the disappearance of Grabovsky.” The suspect was said to be related to Russian intelligence and “former Ukrainians” and they “needed” Grabovsky’s disappearance to “create a picture.” He further noted that on March 5, Grabovsky had gone to Odessa where he told friends he was having “an undesirable meeting.” Then no one saw him again.
Matios said natives of Kiev and Poltava regions and also Western Ukraine were involved in his disappearance.

Grabovsky’s body was reportedly found buried near the city of Zhashkov in Cherkasy (Cherkasskaya) Region.

But according to Oksana Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for the other GRU officer, Yevgeny Yerofeyev, his body was found in another location.

“Yury is no longer with us,” she said. “They found his body in Kiev Region, they dug it up,” said Segodnya. 

Segodnya reported that neither police nor prosecutors have confirmed the finding of Grabovsky’s body. 

Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were captured by Ukrainian forces near Schastye last year after they were wounded in battle. Ukraine has charged them with terrorism, although they have pleaded to be charged with espionage. Moscow has claimed that they were not part of the official army serving as contractors, but were mercenaries.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick