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.
His beheaded and acid-laced body was found a few weeks after he disappeared,
when the story had long faded from the
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.
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
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
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
His supporters made a dismal showing in last spring's general election
campaign, with less than 12% of the votes cast for the main
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.
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
Gongadze can become a National hero
Face the Truth!” Heorhiy Gongadze
Ukraine's headless body 'to be buried' - BBC News
Tuesday, 3 September, 2002
Reporters sans frontières - Géorgiy Gongadze case
Ukraine's Domain in Dot-Dispute (Wired.com)
By Julia Barton
(Reference to the Géorgiy Gongadze case )
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
Documentary films about Gongadze and tape scandal aired at ASN ...
In These Times 25/10 -- Caught on Tape
Temporary home for the Melnychenko Tapes Project
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