SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 04, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Ternopil National Economic University

Region & Country:Europe | Ukraine

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 4, 2019, Ternopil National Economic University (TNEU) Rector, Andrei Krisovaty, and his wife, Oksana Krisovaty, were critically injured by the detonation of an explosive device placed in their driveway.

The targeted attack occurred at the couple’s house, located in Ukraine’s western region of Petrikov, near Ternopil. In the early morning hours, Krisovaty was taking garbage out from his home when he spotted near the gate of his driveway a package that he assumed to be a gift. When Krisovaty picked up the package, it erupted, leaving him seriously injured. Doctors were later required to amputate his left hand. His wife, Oksana, who was nearby, was also seriously injured, with numerous shrapnel wounds to her face and eye.

Law enforcement officials retrieved a note from the site of the explosion that stated, “A gift from us. Memento mori, rector. Memento mori.” “Memento mori” is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “remember death” or “remember that you will die.”

Three weeks following the incident, authorities released a video from CCTV cameras showing a young male suspect delivering the package. However, as of this report, there is no public information regarding the identity of the perpetrator.

Law enforcement are considering several possible motives for the targeted attack, including retaliation for Krisovaty’s professional activity. Specifically, investigators are exploring whether the incident is connected to ongoing disputes concerning land owned by TNEU. In the 1990s, the Ternopil government granted sections of land to state farm employees; those parcels were later privatized and assigned to TNEU educational and research facilities. According to a report by 20 Minut, state farmers filed a lawsuit with the district administrative court requesting that the decree, which transferred the state farmland to the institution, be declared illegal. Officials are also investigating whether this attack is connected to the attempted assassination of ex-deputy mayor Vladimir Kaminsky. On August 3, a package containing an explosive device was placed on the car of Kaminsky’s wife and was detonated when a passerby opened it.

As of this report, it does not appear that authorities have completed or announced the results of their investigation into the attack.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about a targeted attack on a university leader and his family. In addition to the terrible injuries, such attacks target the core values of higher education, including academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. State authorities should safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including by investigating incidents and holding perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards.