The Ukrainian attorney-general's office announced yesterday, in a statement issued by its press service, that the investigation into the role that Gen. Oleksiy Pukach, a former intelligence officer, played in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in September 2000 in Kiev has been completed and that the case is being set to trial.
Significantly, the statement added that investigators had not succeeded in building a case against any other person in connection with Gongadze's murder by Pukach on the orders of then interior minister Yuri Kravchenko, who took his own life in unclear circumstances in 2005.
“We are utterly perplexed by the attorney general's statements,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Sending the case against Pukach to trial can be justified on the grounds that the deadline for holding him in pre-trial detention is expiring,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But at the same time, efforts to shed light on all aspects of this murder – in which senior political figures were implicated, as the attorney general's has itself recognised – have again been obstructed and suppressed.”
Like the investigation into journalist Anna Politkovskaya's 2006 murder in Moscow, the Gongadze murder investigation has been broken up into several components and in both cases this has hindered solving the murder. It is yet one more indication of a lack of will to bring the instigators of these murders to justice.
Impunity is like gangrene. As long as it goes unpunished, Gongadze's murder will continue to fuel the fears of journalists in Ukraine and sustain their feeling that they are not safe.
Reporters Without Borders takes this opportunity to ask those responsible for investigating journalist Vasyl Klymentyev's disappearance in August about the latest evidence gathered in the case.
In September, Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about the disappearance of a potential witness, the harassment of Klymentyev's wife and a search of their lawyer's home without a warrant. At the start of this month, the deputy interior minister acknowledged that one of the leading hypotheses was that Klymentyev's disappearance was connected with his work.
Reporters Without Borders fears that impunity will prevail in the Klymentyev case as it has in the Gongadze murder. The situation for the media and journalists in Ukraine is now very worrying.
In the Gongadze case, Gen. Pukach, who headed the interior ministry's intelligence service, is charged with deliberate homicide with aggravating circumstances (under article 93-C and F of the criminal code) and abuse of authority in the course of performing official duties (under articles 365, 364 and 166).
After his arrest in July 2009, Pukach reportedly admitted to strangling and beheading Gongadze on 16 September 2000. The attorney general's office has said he will be tried next month. In March 2008, three former police officers – Mykola Protasov, Oleksandr Popovich and Valeri Kostenko – were given sentences ranging from 12 to 13 years in prison for their role in Gongadze's murder
Aged 31 at the time of his death, Gongadze edited the online newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, in which he wrote extensively about corruption cases implicating senior members in the government of Leonid Kuchma, who was president from 1994 to 2005.
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