Attackers torch office of Ukraine judge in Russian troops' trial

Kiev (AFP) - Unknown assailants on Friday threw Molotov cocktails and set alight the Kiev office of a Ukrainian judge overseeing the trial of two alleged Russian soldiers captured in the separate east.

The attack comes two weeks after police discovered the body of a Ukrainian lawyer who was brutally murdered after representing one of the two Russian suspects detained during a May 2015 battle in the pro-Moscow region of Lugansk.

The incidents highlight the intense controversy and emotions the trial has stirred in both Russia and Ukraine.

Moscow argues that sergeant Aleksander Aleksandrov and captain Yevgeny Yerofeyev had delisted from the armed forces by the time they crossed the Ukrainian border into the war zone.

But the wounded men told foreign observers and reporters from their hospital beds in Kiev that they had been active members of Russia's GRU military intelligence service at the time.

They recanted their testimony once the court proceedings began.

Kiev police reported that the attack on Judge Mykola Didyk's office happened shortly after midnight.

"A group of young people climbed over a fence surrounding the Golosiyivsky court building and threw bottles with a flammable liquid (at the judge's) third-floor office," the police said in a statement.

- 'Cryptic and tragic events' -

Chief military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said he was certain that documents pertaining to the trial "were definitely the target."

"Unfortunately, the series of cryptic and tragic events relating to this case continues," Matios said in televised comments.

Military investigators have made some progress in the murder of Yuriy Grabovsky -- a Ukrainian attorney who went missing on March 5 and whose body was discovered buried in an abandoned farm with an explosive-packed bracelet around his leg on March 25.

One of two detained Ukrainian suspects has confessed to the murder and helped investigators locate Grabovsky's body.

But the motive of the killing remains unclear.

A new defence lawyer has been named to the case and the Russians' trial is set to resume later Friday.

Moscow angrily blamed the attorney's death on the "Russophobic hysteria" allegedly being fanned by Ukraine's pro-Western leadership.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed swapping the soldiers for Nadiya Savchenko -- a Kiev-born helicopter pilot who was sentenced in Russia to 22 years in prison for her alleged involvement in the killing of two Moscow reporters in the war zone.

But such an exchange is complicated by Savchenko's continued denial of any wrongdoing. Russian law says that foreign convicts may only be sent home to serve their time there once they confess.

The two-year war that has now claimed nearly 9,200 lives and driven more than 1.5 million from their homes was sparked two months after waves of pro-EU protests prompted parliament to impeach Ukraine's Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

The Kremlin calls Russians fighting alongside the insurgents either vacationing soldiers or volunteers over whom it has no direct control.

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