The victim of a horrific sex crime that prompted a bout of national soul-searching in Ukraine died in hospital yesterday.
Oksana Makar, 18, had survived after being left for dead by three attackers who raped her, strangled her and set her body alight. The case caused fury because two of the suspects, who were relatives of local government officials, were initially released, apparently owing to lack of evidence.
Thousands of people across the country protested about the case, claiming it was indicative of official corruption and a culture of impunity for the privileged. Police eventually re-arrested the two men.
The Interior Ministry said yesterday that Ms Makar's death meant that the three suspects were now charged with murder as well as rape. The three men are being held in isolation in a pre-trial detention centre, to avoid other inmates attempting revenge attacks on them.
Ms Makar was lured to a flat in the southern shipbuilding port of Mykolaiv by two men she met in a bar on 8 March. They took her to a friend's house, where the three gave her champagne, and she passed out. When she came round and realised she had been raped, she said she would complain to the police, which is when the men allegedly decided to kill her to cover up the crime.
After strangling her and believing her to be dead, they dumped her body at an abandoned building site, doused her in petrol and set her on fire. Ms Makar was found several hours later; against all the odds, she was still alive.
Ambulance crews who picked her up the next morning found her in a horrific state, with her bones visible and more than 50 per cent of her flesh covered in third- and fourth-degree burns. Doctors had to amputate her right arm to stop gangrene from spreading, as well as her feet. Until yesterday, they had been optimistic that she would live.
Ms Makar was even able to speak from her hospital bed. In a short video made by her mother and posted online, the teenager spoke briefly of her ordeal. Evidently in pain, she said she hoped her attackers would get "f****d up" in prison, and she wanted their testicles to be chopped off and fed to dogs.
Ms Makar died early yesterday. "The level of injuries she had was too serious," said Emil Fistal, the head of the specialist burns unit where she was treated. "She was strangled, then she was burned, and then she spent 10 hours outside in the cold... All of this together created the most horrific injuries which simply could not be recovered from."
The Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, said: "Millions of Ukrainians believed that Oksana would recover, and were hoping and praying for the best. Many people tried to help, by donating blood, buying medicine and offering moral support. And everyone wants to make sure nothing similar ever happens again."
Ms Makar will be buried today in her home village of Luch, with thousands of mourners expected to attend. As an unmarried young woman, she will be buried in a wedding dress, in accordance with local tradition.
Drink and brutality: The attack
The three men accused of the crime are Maxim Prisyazhnyuk, 24, Yevgeny Krasnoshchok, 23, and Artem Pogasyan, 22. Prisyazhnyuk was adopted by a former head of the local administration for a small area near Mykolaiv – a link which may have helped him to be freed before the case caused an outcry.
Friends of the men said they had known each other for only a few days before the alleged attack. One acquaintance of Krasnoshchok said he became violent when drunk and called himself a "skinhead" who wanted to attack non-white people.
Pogasyan was described as quiet, but easily influenced when drunk.
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