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Wolodymyr Golash

Heorhiy Gongadze
The journalist who changed Ukraine



               It has been two years since Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze went missing, but the country is still rocking
               from the political  crisis triggered on 16 September 2000.

               Mr Gongadze, the founder of the crusading web site Ukrayinska Pravda, attacked what he saw as an
                incompetent and corrupt administration.

The journalist who changed Ukraine                    His beheaded and acid-laced body was found a few weeks after he disappeared,
                    when the story had long faded from the front pages.

                   Allegations which emerged soon afterwards that Ukrainian President Leonid
                   Kuchma was implicated in the murder catapulted the story back into the headlines.

                    It has stayed there ever since, fuelling street protests, reshaping the country's
                    politics and ravaging Ukraine's reputation abroad.

                  
                   Two years on, the outrage at the murder has dulled, but the resentment of the government
              it sparked off still endures.

              The opposition is marking the anniversary with a nationwide protest campaign
              calling for the president to be removed.

            The investigation

               New allegations are still emerging from secret  tape recordings made in President Kuchma's office.

               The president's former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, says Mr Kuchma's order to "throw Gongadze
               to the Chechens" is just one of the hundreds of recordings he made secretly over several years.

               After months of stonewalling, the government eventually acknowledged that it was Mr Kuchma's voice
               on the tapes.

               It insists, however, that the recordings were doctored in such a way as to put words into the president's
               mouth.

               Few in Ukraine believe that the bungled official investigation will ever move beyond  pledges to find
               the killers.

The journalist who changed Ukraine

               After almost two years of inquiries managed little except
               drawing brickbats from the West and Ukraine's opposition,
               a new team of detectives was appointed.
 

               The new investigators accused their predecessors of incompetence,
               but they have so far done little to restore public confidence in the
               inquiry.

               After scores of conflicting previous tests a new examination has concluded
               that the mutilated body belongs to the journalist.

               But Mr Gongadze's mother says she is still not sure whose body she will be given to bury.

               New authenticity tests on the scandalous recordings have been ordered in an unnamed foreign
               country.

               Critics say, however, that the tests already held in the US by a former FBI expert leave no room
               for doubt
               that the records are original.

               After repeatedly rejecting Western assistance, the prosecution has asked Washington to question
               Mr Melnychenko, who was granted asylum in the US shortly after the scandal broke out.

               But the opposition says the prosecutors are just trying to whitewash the president's reputation and
               salvage
               what remains of his standing abroad.

             The implications

               While the truth about Mr Gongadze's death has yet to be revealed, the scandal's repercussions
               are immense.

               The normally phlegmatic Ukrainians took to the streets in the biggest display of public anger since
               independence in 1991.

               The opposition - once fractious but now united by anti-Kuchma sentiment - expects tens of thousands
               to turn out for the new wave of protests across the country.

               Mr Kuchma's reputation is in tatters, his ratings wallow in single digits, and any thoughts of a third term
               in office have been all but laid to rest.

               His supporters made a dismal showing in last spring's general election campaign, with less than 12%
               of the votes cast for the main pro-government bloc.

               Feeling threatened and vulnerable, the administration hardened its grip on the media, leaving few outlets
               for the opposition to make its voice heard.

               And in foreign policy, Mr Kuchma, berated by human rights groups and shunned by the West, veered
               sharply towards Russia, prompting accusations of trading Ukraine's interests for the Kremlin's unquestioning
               support.

             Pandora's box

               Meanwhile Mykola Melnychenko, the former bodyguard, says Mr Gongadze's murder was the last straw
               and is determined to keep the pressure on the embattled administration.

               In one of the new recordings he has released, a voice similar to Mr Kuchma's gives a green light to the
               sale to Saddam Hussein of Ukrainian radar capable of detecting Stealth planes.

               US officials refuse to comment on the evidence Mr Melnychenko has given them while in exile.

               But with the campaign against Iraq gaining momentum, the tapes, if found to be authentic, could win the
               Ukrainian opposition  powerful new allies in the West.

               If that happens, the Ukrainian administration, which has so far weathered the storm, may yet find that the
               disappearance of a campaigning journalist two years ago is the least of its problems.

Story published on Monday, 16 September, 2002, by BBC News Europe



Other Links:

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Says Gongadze Case 'Solved'
http://www.ukemonde.com/gongadze/solved.html
 

Gongadze can become a National hero
http://www.ukemonde.com/gongadze/nationalhero.html
 

“Requiem 2002:
Face the Truth!” Heorhiy Gongadze
http://www.gongadze.org/
 

Ukraine's headless body 'to be buried'  - BBC News
Tuesday, 3 September, 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2234645.stm
 

Reporters sans frontières - Géorgiy Gongadze case
http://www.rsf.org/reports.php3?id_mot=533
 

Ukraine's Domain in Dot-Dispute (Wired.com)
By Julia Barton
(Reference to the Géorgiy Gongadze case )
http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,44012,00.html
 

Amnesty International Report 2002 - Europe - UKRAINE
... No progress was made in bringing to justice those responsible for the
possible ''disappearance'' of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000
http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/eur/ukraine!Open
 

Documentary films about Gongadze and tape scandal aired at ASN ...
http://www.brama.com/news/press/020413asn_gongadzefilms.html
 

In These Times 25/10 -- Caught on Tape
http://www.inthesetimes.com/issue/25/10/weir2510.html
 

Temporary home for the Melnychenko Tapes Project
http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/academy/melnychenko/



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