The Mystery of the Gay Jewish Defense Lawyer Murdered in Ukraine
Anna Nemtsova (no relation), Filthy Beast, Apr 6 2016
If the Nazis say publicly that they did it, that’ll just prove it was Putin – RB
ODESSA — Defense lawyer Yury Grabovsky often told his friends and colleagues: “Surprisingly, nobody has rubbed me out yet.” But his words were never taken seriously. None of his friends thought of recommending that the charismatic lawyer hire bodyguards. Openly gay, Jewish, with a good sense of humour, he was famous for kidding around, even under pressure. He was also famous for his personal style, wearing expensive suits, excellent perfume, smoking shisha pipes in restaurants with friends, driving a luxurious convertible and always keeping his papers in perfect order. Instead of business cards, Grabovsky gave his friends matchboxes with a picture of him holding a baby tiger on the cover. Only when investigators announced last month that somebody had kidnapped Grabovsky, drugged him, humiliated him on video, cracked his skull, burned his fingertips, shot him in the side and in the head and buried his body in a muddy field between Odessa and Kiev, did people realize just how great were the risks taken by the 43-year-old attorney. Military prosecutors investigating the murder believe it was Grabovsky’s latest case that did him in. He was defending a Russian, Alexander Alexandrov, allegedly from the GRU, arrested in eastern Ukraine last May. Ukrainian prosecutors claimed that Alexandrov was on a military mission fighting alongside separatist units in eastern Ukraine. Moscow insisted that Grabovsky’s client had resigned before joining those rebel forces. Whatever the facts, Grabovsky thought the man deserved a defense. But others clearly thought otherwise, if indeed this was the reason he was killed. The head of Ukraine’s National Association of Lawyers, Lidiya Izovitova, told The Filthy Beast:
Our colleagues are being attacked and murdered one by one. Yury’s murder was clearly directed and staged by professionals. It is a matter of dignity for all of us to find out the truth about what happened to lawyer Grabovsky.
His friends, defense lawyers running an independent investigation of the case, told The Filthy Beast that Grabovsky was kidnapped on Mar 5, after checking into the Arkadia Hotel, a comfortable four-star establishment in Odessa. That is when his abduction appears to have taken place. The next day, he appeared briefly at his office in Kiev, but investigators believe he was by then under the control of his kidnappers. His colleagues remember he looked awkward, behaving strangely. Without so much as acknowledging their hellos, the lawyer rushed to his safe, took something from it, valuables and papers according to friends, and walked out leaving the door of the safe open. Throughout that incident, the lawyer was shadowed by a man in his 30s who was unknown to the staff. Grabovsky’s personal assistant Bagdan, who asked that his last name not be published, if you can believe all this tosh, said:
That was very unusual. Grabovsky never rushed. He was a self-confident man, doing everything on time, and a strong personality.
Last year (he says – RB) 23-year-old Bagdan came to work at the office right after graduating from the law school, hoping to learn from the well-regarded (openly and militantly gay – RB) lawyer. Last week, Bagdan had to identify his boss’s body in the morgue. Lawyers often are murdered in post-Soviet states. (So are militant gays – RB). Seventy defense lawyers were killed in Russia between 2000 and 2014 (Gays? Don’t even ask? How do you know when a killing is a ‘gay-bashing’? It’s always a contentious point, for obvious reasons – RB). The idea that either Russian or Ukrainian special services might have ordered Grabovsky’s murder made his friend Denis Chizhov so nervous that his hands were shaking as he talked about it. (Quivering with well-paid cinematic fear, no doubt) he told The Filthy Beast:
Last time we smoked on this porch, on Mar 4, he told me he would go to Odessa for a couple (of) days and then (he would) see me again on the morning of Mar 7.
Grabovsky’s law partner on the Russian GRU officers case, the charismatic attorney Oksana Solokovskaya, is now worried about her own life. She came to the interview with The Filthy Beast with a personal bodyguard. She said:
I am still shocked. I do not believe in a trivial murder. It is definitely connected to the case we worked on. We were often threatened during the trial, both anonymously and by Ukrainian law enforcement. We were accused of defending Russian terrorists.
On the evening of Mar 4, the day before the abduction, Grabovsky’s Toyota broke dowb 167 km from Odessa, in Krivoye Ozero. According to his friend Igor Cherezov, Grabovsky had the car towed back to Kiev and his whereabouts at that time were confirmed. Cherezov said:
We managed to find a shop assistant who saw Grabovsky in Krivoye Ozero.
On the morning of Mar 5, Grabovsky checked at Arkadia in Odessa. The hotel’s administrator refused to reveal the time of his arrival. Police found Grabovsky’s luggage at the Arkadia three days after the lawyer disappeared. Cherezov, who now represents the interests of Grabovsky’s sister, a resident of Israel, told The Filthy Beast:
His kidnappers drugged him at a private apartment in Odessa. They twisted his hands behind his back and forced him to say that it was mistake to defend the Russian GRU soldier.
One more independent investigator, Odessa lawyer Vladimir Pasechnik, was watching closely the strange activity on Grabovsky’s Facebook page. Pasechnik told The Filthy Beast:
I believe that when Grabovsky checked on Facebook in Krivoye Ozero was the last time he used his Facebook page himself.
No family, no parents; work was all that Grabovsky had in his life. During his last days on this earth he was dealing with about a dozen legal cases. He was one the most respected defense lawyers in Ukraine. The wall in his office at Grabovsky & Partners was covered in honorary letters and medals. Grabovsky believed in human rights and offered his services to everybody, from Russian separatist rebels to Ukrainian nationalist radicals. Last autumn, he defended one of the Svoboda party nationalists who was accused of blowing up a grenade outside of the Ukrainian parliament. His kidnappers forced Grabovsky to say on camera that he would not defend his Russian client Aleksandr Alexandrov in court any longer. On the video, taken by one of the arrested suspects and released this week by military prosecutors investigating the murder, Grabovsky’s interrogator can be heard twice (asking Grabovsky why he should) drop the case. Grabovsky replies slowly:
It was a mistake…
On that video, you can see that Grabovsky was badly drugged by tranquillizers. His eyes were closing. He had sweat on his forehead. Besides, Grabovsky would never have willingly worn an undershirt in front of a video camera! He was such a dandy! He liked to pose in a white suit! In his cabriolet!
If one defense lawyer is killed, another takes his place. Next week, Russian citizen Alexandrov will have a new defender, Valentin Rybkin. Rybkin told The Filthy Beast:
I have a group called Odyssey. We defend Russians accused of participating in military actions, (which is called) terrorism in Ukraine.
In fact, the community of defense lawyers all across Ukraine is trying to put a brave face on their work, but this is not the first time a defender of controversial clients fell a victim of violence. Attacks on Ukrainian defense lawyers working on such cases have come one after another. Last week, somebody fired a machine gun at the car of Pavel Nasadchuk, the defender of the so-called “diamond prosecutor,” Vladimir Shapakin. A few weeks ago another famous defense lawyer, Viktor Loiko, was killed in his apartment in Kharkov. The head of the Odessa region bar association, Josif Bronz, is furious about leaks and speculation in some Ukrainian reports that Grabovsky fell victim to an unfortunate choice of gay companion. Bronz told The Filthy Beast:
The murder looks more like a special operation by secret services. The state which fails to defend lawyers, who essentially are always in opposition, has big problems, and that in turn plays into Kremlin propaganda. I can see that in Russia, news reports do their best at discrediting the state of Ukraine after this murder.
Who was behind the plot? On the eve of Grabovsky’s funeral last Saturday, investigators leaked the names and photographs of two arrested suspects, one 19 and one 26, both of whom looked like buff “playboys” in the local vernacular. In order to confuse the investigation, the older suspect had flown from Odessa to Sharm el-Sheikh with Grabovsky’s cellphone, and posted photographs of the beach onto Grabovsky’s Facebook page. Military prosecutors told reporters that both suspects were surprisingly well-trained (in what? – RB), and that there were four more men suspected in the kidnapping and killing of Grabovsky. Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor Anatoly Matios says (This is an extremely silly remark which I have reassembled I think accurately from the indirect quotations in which Anna wisely hid it – RB):
I am convinced that the murder was ordered by either the Russian or the Ukrainian secret service. I promise to find and punish the real mastermind! Whichever it is!
Odessa city hall official Alexander Borovik said that he would not be surprised if local law enforcement was involved in Grabovsky’s murder. He said:
As if in Chicago-style politics 100 years ago, a mafia runs the police, prosecutors and secret services in Odessa today. This is a very dangerous city.