Ukrainian Official's Death Deemed Intentional

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's top law enforcement official believes the death of an opposition leader in a car crash seven years ago was an intentional killing, not an accident, a Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Vyacheslav Chornovil

Vyacheslav Chornovil died instantly on March 25, 1999, when the car he was riding in slammed into the side of a truck.

Authorities called it an accident, but doubts grew when the government refused to investigate any other possibility and quickly granted amnesty to the truck driver.

The crash occurred as Chornovil, who was expected to enter the presidential race, was returning from a campaign trip.

A video-recorded confession of alleged police involvement surfaced, but then was mysteriously misplaced.

The government of former President Leonid Kuchma dismissed allegations that Chornovil's death was a political killing aimed at removing a potential rival.

After President Viktor Yushchenko came into office in 2004, the investigation was reopened amid demands from lawmakers, including Chornovil's son Taras.

Last year, police said they suspected Chornovil's death was a political killing, but the case again stalled.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko said Chornovil was murdered, but gave no other details.

"As a person who has enough information, I am sure that … Chornovil was a victim of murder, not of a car crash," Lutsenko said late Wednesday, ministry spokeswoman Inna Kysil said.

Lutsenko also said police had made "serious progress" in investigating the case.

Chornovil was a dissident during the Soviet period who spent time in jail for his political views, and was instrumental in fostering Ukraine's independence amid the Soviet collapse.

Source: The Moscow Times