Ex-Security Chief Smeshko Still Concerned About Ukrainian President's Safety

KIEV, Ukraine -- The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ihor Smeshko, has described the continued spotlight on his alleged involvement in the poisoning of the then presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, in 2004 as a diversion to attract attention away from two other serious attempts on the president's life.

Ex-Security Service Chief Smeshko

Interviewed by the Ukrainian tabloid Fakty i Kommentarii, Smeshko suggested that Yushchenko could still be in danger if the incidents are not investigated properly. He said: "If those who ordered those crimes went this far, what can stop them? Failure to establish the truth in this case is fraught with more than just speculation..."

As an example, he recalled the arrest of two Russian citizens with 3 kg of explosives on 21 November 2004 on suspicion of plotting to blow up Yushchenko's election HQ on polling day in the presidential election runoff.

Smeshko said that, although the detained men said they had arrived "to imitate a terrorist act against a presidential candidate to boost his rating", the threat to Yushchenko was quite real, given the large amount of explosives and a professionally made and tested radioelectronically-controlled explosive device found in their possession. He said the men also named the person who ordered the attack.

Smeshko also rejected accusations of blocking the investigation into the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000 voiced recently by Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun. Piskun had said Smeshko telephoned him in 2003, telling him to slow down in investigating the murder. Smeshko said he had never phoned Piskun about the Gongadze probe.

He said he wants Piskun to apologize and has already filed a lawsuit against Piskun. He described Piskun's statement as a publicity stunt intended to earn him "political dividends". Meanwhile, it was the SBU that played a key role in gathering key evidence against Gongadze's murderers, Smeshko said.

Source: BBC Monitoring Service