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Ukraine6 November 2002

Where is Mikhailo Kolomiets?

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its concern about the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Mikhailo Kolomiets, director of the Ukrainski Novyny news agency, who has been missing since 21 October. The organisation wrote to Interior Minister Yuri Smirnov asking him to do everything possible to locate Kolomiets and, without jumping to conclusions, it suggested that police should not at this stage rule the possibility of his disappearance being linked to his work as a journalist.

Kolomiets’ disappearance was reported by Ukrainski Novyny on 28 October. The news agency said it could be related to Kolomiets’ work and to the fact that the agency’s reporting is sometimes critical of the Ukrainian government.

According to the police, Kolomiets travelled from Ukraine to Belarus on 22 October. On the evening of 28 October, he made telephone calls to his colleagues, family and a friend in which, according to the police, he said he had left Ukraine with the intention of committing suicide.

The testimonies obtained by Reporters Without Borders are contradictory on several points. His family said that, in his phone calls, he did not explicitly say he wanted to kill himself. They said he does not suffer from depression and had no personal reason for wanting to commit suicide. His mother also denied police claims that she had been in "regular" contact with her son since his disappearance.

Aged 44, Kolomiets has been a journalist since 1991. He created the Ukrainski Novyny news agency in 1997 and owns 50 per cent of its shares. The rest are owned by the Agency for Humanitarian Technologies, run by Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, who works closely with President Kuchma.

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