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 front pages.
Allegations which emerged soon afterwards that Ukrainian President
Kuchma was implicated in the murder catapulted the story back into the headlines.
It has stayed there ever since, fuelling street protests, reshaping the
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
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
Few in Ukraine believe that the bungled official investigation will
move beyond pledges to find
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
After scores of conflicting previous tests a new examination has
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
an unnamed foreign
Critics say, however, that the tests already held in the US by a former
FBI expert leave no room
that the records are original.
After repeatedly rejecting Western assistance, the prosecution has
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
president's reputation and
what remains of his standing abroad.
While the truth about Mr Gongadze's death has yet to be revealed, the
The normally phlegmatic Ukrainians took to the streets in the biggest
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
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
by the West, veered
sharply towards Russia, prompting accusations of trading Ukraine's interests for the Kremlin's unquestioning
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
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
to be authentic, could win the
Ukrainian opposition powerful new allies in the West.
If that happens, the Ukrainian administration, which has so far
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
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Says Gongadze Case 'Solved'
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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