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Ukraine9 August 2005

Suspected killers of journalist Georgy Gongadze named

Three policemen — Valery Kostenko, Mikola Protasov and Oleksandr Popovych — were accused by the prosecutor-general’s office on 8 August of kidnapping and murdering journalist Georgy Gongadze nearly five years ago. A fourth suspect, Olexi Pukach, is still being sought with an international arrest warrant. Prosecution officials said they would try to identify those who ordered the killing as soon as investigation of those who carried it out was complete.


14 April 2005 Former intelligence chief alleged to have personally strangled Georgy Gongadze

(JPEG) Two Ukrainian colonels who were arrested on 1 March in the Georgy Gongadze murder investigation, and who have not been named, reportedly told judicial investigators that Gongadze, the editor of the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, was strangled by Gen. Olexi Pukach, the former head of the interior ministry’s intelligence service. This was revealed by Kiev deputy prosecutor, Gen. Victor Shokin, in an interview for the Segodnia daily newspaper on 12 April.

Gen. Pukach, who was already suspected of ordering the destruction of documents about persons, probably policemen, who followed Gongadze for several months prior to his disappearance in September 2000, is therefore now personally and directly implicated in his murder. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Pecherski district court in Kiev on 25 January. He is believed to be currently residing in Israel.

The two detained colonels and a third person under house arrest in Kiev who has also not been identified, are charged under article 93 of the Ukrainian criminal code with "murder with aggravating circumstances" - the aggravating circumstances being that they were together at the time. Until Ukraine signed the sixth protocol of the European human rights convention in February 2000, this was punishable by death.


31 March 2005 Human rights court declares Gongadze case admissible

A complaint to the European Court of Human Rights by Myroslava Gongadze about the September 2000 murder of her husband, journalist Georgy Gongadze, was declared admissible by the court yesterday. Gongadze’s widow, who now lives in Arlington, in the United States, has accused the Ukrainian authorities of "failing to protect his life" and "failing to investigate the case in a coherent and effective manner." The complaint invokes article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) and article 13 (right to an effective remedy).

Meanwhile, Oleksander Turchynov, the head of the SBU (the Ukrainian secret services), yesterday said former interior minister Yuri Kravchenko’s death was almost certainly suicide. Kravchenko was found dead in his garage with two gunshot wounds to the head on 4 March. He had been due to be interrogated that afternoon by the Kiev prosecutor’s office about the Gongadze case. Turchynov said, "today there is no other version but suicide."


15 March 2005 Former President Kuchma questioned in Gongadze investigation

Former President Leonid Kuchma was formally questioned on 10 March by members of the office of the Ukraine public prosecutor who are investigating the 2000 murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. No details have emerged about Kuchma’s interrogation and the former president’s only public comment was to again deny any role in the murder.

Mykola Tomenko, an aide to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, met on 8 March in Warsaw with a former member of Kuchma’s security services, Mykola Melnichenko, to discuss recordings that were made in Kuchma’s office before Gongadze’s murder. The former security agent could be a witness in court. The prosecutor meanwhile charged two colonels on 7 March, a week after they were summoned for questioning by judicial investigators.

The government has also confirmed that President Viktor Yushchenko will travel to Washington next month to meet Melnichenko, who was given political asylum in the United States in 2001.


7 mars 2005 Controversy flares around the "suicide" of former interior minister

Leonid Kuchma in the firing line

Former Ukrainian interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko, a key witness in the Gongadze case who was found dead on 4 March, reportedly left a note that blamed his suicide on former president Leonid Kuchma and those around him. The ex-president, now under the spotlight, cut short his holiday in the Czech Republic to return to Kiev on 5 March, in the knowledge that he could have to respond to legal questioning. Since 2000, the opposition, now in power, has accused Kuchma of ordering the murder of Géorgiy Gongadze. The former president has said he is innocent "before God, the people and his conscience".

Evidence from a former officer

Elsewhere, Mykola Melnichenko, a former officer in the Ukrainian presidential guard now exiled in the United States, who made recordings that pointed to the ex-president’s guilt in the murder of the journalist, said on 6 March that he did not believe that Kravchenko’s death was suicide. He pointed the finger at Leonid Kuchma, but also at parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Sviatoslav Piskun, general prosecutor for the Gongadze case. Speaking in Warsaw where he was due to meet Urkainian leaders about his possible return to Kiev to give evidence, he said that he feared even more for his life today than before.

The press asking questions

The Ukrainian press has since 5 March been questioning the truth of the reported suicide of Kravchenko. The daily Komsomolskaïa Pravda said in its 6 March edition," It is not an established fact", given that for example traces of two bullets were found at the ex-minister’s temple.

Final respects paid to Kravchenko

Around 100 people, including former president Kuchma, paid their final respects to Yuri Kravchenko on the morning of 7 March in a central Kiev theatre. No representative of the current government attended. The prosecutor’s office has still not officially announced its intention to question the former president, who is falling under ever greater suspicion of having, through Kravchenko, been behind the 2000 murder of Gongadze.


Yuri Kravtchenko believed to have committed suicide 4 March 2005

Former Ukrainian interior minister, Yuri Kravtchenko, called for questioning by the prosecutor’s office as a key witness in the Géorgiy Gongadze murder case for 10pm on 4 March, was found dead the same day in his country house in Kontcha Zaspé, south of Kiev. He appeared to have committed suicide using his own gun to fire two bullets into his head. His body was found by relatives early in the morning. He was wearing a thick jacket, and showed marks of gunshot wounds to the temple. The president, Viktor Yushchenko, said he believed that Kravtchenko had "sentenced" himself.

Several communist deputies on 4 March called for the immediate arrest of ex-president Leonid Kuchma after this "mysterious death". Kuchma is currently holidaying in the Czech Republic.

A commentator on Kanal 5 said on 3 March that the prosecutor’s office was far from having "cleared up all aspects" of the case and had above all carried out a "public relations coup".


Prosecutor Piskun confirms that the Gongadze case has been solved 3 March 2005

Prosecutor General, Sviatoslav Piskun, told a press conference in Kiev on 2 March 2005, that the person who ordered the murder of Géorgiy Gongadze was "known to the investigators" but he did not however reveal his identity. "The murderers carried out a criminal order", Piskun said, ruling out the possibility of a group acting independently.

The Ukrainian official also confirmed that the two people arrested on 1st March were the "direct murderers" of the journalist. He added that a third person had been told not to leave Kiev and that former intelligence chief at the interior ministry, General Olexi Pukach, was being actively sought. The general, suspected of ordering the destruction of files relating to those, probably police officers, who were following the journalist several months before his death, was investigated in connection with the case in 2003 before being ruled out of the inquiry.

Piskun added that ex-president Leonid Kuchma’s former interior minister Yuri Kravchenko, would be questioned in relation to the investigation on 4 March.

The prosecutor general revealed some details about the murder itself. First results showed that Gongadze died from "strangulation". He was apparently abducted from outside his home, bundled into a car, "where he was beaten" before being "sprayed with petrol and burned alive".

Sviatoslova Piskun offered a public apology to the mother and family of the victim for the failings of the investigation from the very beginning.


President Yushchenko says Gongadze murder is solved 1st March 2005

Reporters Without Borders welcomed President Viktor Yushchenko’s statement today that the killers of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, whose decapitated body was found on 2 November 2000, had been arrested and the murder solved but called for caution in view of past errors in the case.

Yushchenko did not say who had been arrested for killing the journalist, who edited the online anti-government paper Ukrainska Pravda (www.pravda.com.ua) and who disappeared on 16 September that year.

Oleh Yeltsov, editor of Ukrayina Kryminalna (Ukrainian Crime), said on the TV station Kanal 5 today that police sources had told him Gongadze’s head had been found in a lake near the river Dniepr, just outside Kiev, and that three policemen had been arrested. The Interfax news agency quoted the SBU security police as saying they arrested two unnamed men today who were "directly involved" in the killing. The SBU refused to confirm if Gongadze’s head had been found.

"We welcome the positive progress towards solving this murder," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "But we remain very cautious in view of the countless very serious errors and changes in the investigation of this case over the past four years. We await solid evidence that will convict the killers. The government must see the investigation is completely impartial."

Yushchenko told a press conference in Kiev today that the murder was solved and that several people had been arrested and had confessed. He said former President Leonid Kuchma’s regime had protected them. "My job and the police’s job is to go right to the end of the road, right to those who ordered and organised the killing," he said.

He said he learned the terrible truth about the murder the previous day (28 February) when he saw a video made for those who ordering the killing. "Gongadze died a terrible death, worse than medieval," he said. Addressing Gongadze’s mother, who he recently met, the president said: "We promised to solve the murder and we have."

Yeltsov quoted his sources as saying that those arrested were police Gen. Mykola Astion, former head of Kiev’s organised crime division, and two colonels. The SBU refused to confirm this, citing legal confidentiality rules.

Yushchenko’s statement came after conflicting news on 24 February when Yushchenko told a press conference in Strasbourg that "the two witnesses in the Gongadze case have been killed. But I understand that the investigation will proceed quickly. It’s a matter of honour."

Interior ministry spokeswoman Inna Kysel said on 27 February that investigators had identified the car used to kidnap the journalist and also those responsible. A few hours after her announcement, a key witness in the case, Yuri Nesterov, was reportedly seriously wounded in a grenade while under police escort.




  In this country
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
15 March - Ukraine
Three former policemen convicted of Gongadze murder but instigators have yet to identified
12 February - Ukraine
Gongadze murder trial resumes in Kiev
14 September - Ukraine
Political will lacking to solve Gongadze murder seven years after his death
27 August - Ukraine
Bomb hoax against Russian-language daily, photographer attacked

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