DONETSK, Ukraine – (AFP) – An 18-year old Ukrainian girl died Thursday almost three weeks after suffering a gang rape attack by youths which shocked the nation and raised new doubts about the competence of its police.
Oksana Makar was raped by three young men in their early 20s, strangled, burned alive and then left for dead in the attack in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv, investigators have said.
The victim was found by a passer-by after she was dumped by her attackers at an abandoned construction site. She was hospitalised with 55 percent burns in a critical condition, requiring the amputation of one of her arms.
Oksana Makar died of her injuries in a specialist hospital in the eastern city of Donetsk where she had been taken after her rescue, the clinic announced.
Her heart stopped beating after she suffered a pulmonary haemorrhage and she died despite three attempts to resuscitate her, the chief doctor of the Donetsk Burns centre, Emil Fistal, told AFP.
He said the fact she was able to survive for three weeks since the attack, which occured on March 9 or 10, according to the source, had only been possible due to intense treatment and therapy.
“Imagine. She was strangled and they (the attackers) thought she had died. So they burned her. She was lying there 10 hours in the freezing cold and inhaled the by-products of the burning,” Fistal said.
President Viktor Yanukovych sent condolences to her relatives while Prime Minister Mykola Azarov vowed that the attackers would be punished “without compromise.”
“Millions of Ukrainians believed that Oksana would survive and prayed for her, offering blood, buying medicine,” Azarov said. “Everyone wants that such a thing never happens again.”
The case has caused a public outcry in Ukraine, exposing incompetence by the law-enforcement authorities and the extent of social problems in industrial cities like Mykolayiv which are riddled with drugs and AIDS.
Ukrainian media had alleged that the suspected attackers — two of whom were initially allowed to go free — are the sons of parents with strong connections to leading local officials.
The mother of one suspect used to be the head of a district in the Mykolayiv region, the regional interior ministry confirmed, prompting allegations the authorities had been trying to keep a lid on the whole affair.
Meanwhile, her mother controversially posted a footage of Oksana in hospital on YouTube in a harrowing video where she shows the bloodied stump of her arm and, apparently barely able to speak, says she feels “awful”.
The three suspects were all arrested soon after the body was discovered but two were then released, prompting demonstrations by Ukrainians in cities across the country as well as the prominent feminist group Femen.
Femen staged a topless protest at the Ukrainian general prosecutors office in Kyiv, brandishing slogans like “Death to Sadists!” and “Oksana, Live!” from the entrance porch of the building.
All three men were again placed under arrest on March 13. Two suspects were then charged with gang rape and one with rape and attempted murder.
Ukrainian interior ministry spokesman Volodymyr Polishchuk told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency that all three had now been charged with premeditated rape and murder.
According to the interior ministry, several officials from the police and local prosecutors were fired and reprimanded for initially letting the suspects go free.
If convicted, the three face between 15 years and life in jail, although the brutality of the crime has renewed public debate about the use of the death penalty which was abolished in Ukraine over a decade ago.