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Ukraine28 October 2005

Minister hints at bomb on editor’s car as Reporters Without Borders says "blast was certainely not vandalism"

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Interior minister Yuri Lutsenko said today security cameras near the home of managing editor Walid Harfouch, of the Russian-language monthly celebrity magazine Paparazzi, had been disconnected for half an hour on 30 September, during which time a bomb badly damaged his car in Kiev.

Reporters Without Borders said it was “very concerned” that the network of 24 cameras watching embassies and a state security police building had been switched off and called on the authorities to thoroughly investigate. The blast was not just vandalism, it said.

Lutsenko admitted to the daily Ukrainian edition of the paper Komsomolskaïa Pravda today that the suggestion that the staff of Paparazzi had set off the bomb themselves to collect insurance money did not hold up because the car had not been insured.

He said he had questioned President Viktor Yushchenko’s son Andryi, who confessed to meeting the magazine’s publisher, Omar Harfouch, in a city restaurant in March but denied he and his bodyguards had threatened the publisher. The minister said the public prosecutor had begun a criminal investigation of one of the French-Lebanese Harfouch brothers more than a year ago, but gave no details.

Publisher Omar told Reporters Without Borders it was “a lie” that such an investigation was under way and said he was worried about the safety of his brother in Kiev. He said no charges had been filed against them since they had been living in Ukraine except for one the day before the explosion, but after 10 days of enquiries it had been dropped for lack of evidence.

Paparazzi finally published Turkish holiday photos of Andryi Yushchenko, which had been the source of the dispute, on 14 October.

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