MOSCOW, Russia -- The crime was shocking enough: an 18-year-old woman gang-raped, half strangled, set on fire and left for dead.
ut what sent hundreds of Ukrainians into the streets and rushing to her hospital to give blood this month was a police decision to free two suspects rumored to be politically connected.
The uproar has shaken the upper echelons of Ukraine’s government.
On Thursday, three weeks after the attack, the young woman died.
Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president, and Nikolai Azarov, the prime minister, were among the first to offer condolences — along with vows that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
“I will press law enforcement agencies to investigate and obtain a just punishment,” Mr. Azarov wrote on his blog.
“No compromises. Only with the knowledge that punishment is inevitable will these monsters fear to encroach on people’s lives and rights.”
Whether they will succeed in calming the outrage is unclear.
Doctors said the young woman, Oksana Makar, suffered serious burns to about 55 percent of her body and had severe internal injuries.
One of her arms was amputated.
She was able to give at least one videotaped interview, her blond hair matted and blue eyes straining against what she described as excruciating pain.
For Ukrainians transfixed by her ordeal, she came to embody long-simmering animosities over government impotence and impunity for the privileged in this former Soviet nation.
It was only after the street protests and Mr. Yanukovich’s personal intervention that the police in the small southern town of Nikolayev re-arrested the young men.
On Thursday, they and a third jailed suspect were officially charged with murder.
The men met Ms. Makar at a cafe in Nikolayev on the evening of March 9, according to prosecutors.
After a few drinks, she agreed to go with them back to one of their apartments.
They continued to drink.
At some point, Ms. Makar complained of not feeling well and went to lie down in the bedroom.
“After that they came to their criminal intention: to rape her,” Yuri V. Boychenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, said by telephone.
“After they committed this act, they were worried that she would go to the police, and to avoid this — all were in a state of intoxication — took further steps.”
The men, he said, tried to strangle Ms. Makar with a cord, leaving her barely conscious.
Then they wrapped her in a blanket and dragged her to a nearby construction site, where they set her on fire.
She was discovered the next morning, still conscious, by a passing motorist.
It is not clear why the police initially freed two of the suspects.
Investigators maintain that they lacked enough evidence to hold them.
Rumors quickly spread that the parents of the two, both in their 20s, had ties to the local government.
Officials confirmed that one, Maksim Prisyazhnyuk, is the adopted son of a former chairwoman in a regional legislature.
The perception that the men were released because of political connections touched a nerve.
Ukrainian tabloids are filled with the exploits of the so-called mazhory, the children of the wealthy and powerful who can seem impervious to punishment.
Some called on the government to reinstate the death penalty as in Soviet times and execute the men, according to local media reports.
After the public outcry, Mr. Yanukovich directed Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, to open an inquiry.
It found that the police had acted carelessly.
Several officials in the local prosecutor’s office and police departments involved in the case were fired and others were demoted.
Asked in a videotaped interview shortly before her death what she wanted to say to her attackers, Ms. Makar, visibly straining against the pain, said she hoped they would be raped in prison.