Georgiy Gongadze Case: Anatomy Of A Cover-Up

KIEV, Ukraine -- According to alleged testimony of former Interior Ministry official Oleksiy Pukach released on Sept. 14, 2010, Volodymyr Lytvyn (then chief of staff for ex-President Leonid Kuchma) comes to ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko’s office (one day after Georgiy Gongadze’s murder), along with First Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha and ministry chief of staff Eduard Fere. Kravchenko introduces him to Pukach with the words: “Volodymyr Mykhailovych [Lytvyn], this is our worker who personally took care of Gongadze.” According to Pukach, Kravchenko patted him on the shoulder and said: “Tell the president that we shall fulfill any of his orders.”

Georgiy Gongadze

A timeline of the cover-up:

Sept. 19, 2000 – President Leonid Kuchma holds a press conference in which he said he is “very upset” to learn of Gongadze’s disappearance. On the same day, police question neighbors in a house that Gongadze had left on Sept. 16. Two of them said they heard a man scream between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. that night.

Oct. 18, 2000 – Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz meets with presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, who gives Moroz recordings that allegedly included conversations that implicate Kuchma in the disappearance of Gongadze.

Nov. 2, 2000 – A headless body is found in Tarashcha, south of Kyiv. Melnychenko receives foreign visas for himself and his family to flee Ukraine, nine days after quitting the presidential guard.

Nov. 6, 2000 – The headless body is identified as Gongadze’s. The news is concealed from the journalist’s relatives and the press. On the same day, general prosecutor’s investigator, Hryhoriy Harbuz, calls Gongadze’s relatives and asks what accessories he had wore and what he had eaten on the day of disappearance.

Nov. 8, 2000 – Forensic expert Ihor Vorotyntsev of Tarashcha is ordered to destroy the body by members of the investigation team from the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutor’s Office, but refuses to do it.

Nov. 15, 2000 – Vorotyntsev is visited by journalists who were tipped off by Moroz about the body later identified as Gongadze’s. While journalists look for a coffin, local police receive an order from Kravchenko to remove the body.

Nov. 16, 2000 – Kravchenko is called to parliament, but sends his deputy, Mykola Dzhyha, who claims that the body was not identified.

Nov. 17, 2000 – Vorotyntsev’s notes are confiscated along with his computer. He is made a witness in the case to ensure that he can no longer talk about it without breaking the law. His computer is later returned with a virus that eventually deletes all his files.

Nov. 28, 2000 – Moroz publicly releases several excerpts from secretly recorded conversations between Kuchma and other top officials in which they discuss how to get rid of Gongadze. Mykola Melnychenko, a former presidential bodyguard, claims to have made the recordings. In the following days, Moroz is accused of slander while major Kuchma-controlled TV channels fail to report fairly on the tapes.

Nov. 30, 2000 – The prosecutor general announces that he talked to Kuchma and Kravchenko, who deny having conversations like those in the recordings, therefore pronouncing the recordings as fakes.

Dec. 1, 2000 – Kuchma comments on Melnychenko’s tapes for the first time, calling them “a provocation of foreign special services.”

Dec. 15, 2000 – The first public protest takes place by the mass movement Ukraine Without Kuchma, which unites 24 political parties and social organizations. They demand the resignation of Kuchma and his top officials, as well as a full investigation of the Gongadze case.

Jan. 10, 2001 – General Prosecutor Mykhailo Potebenko finally officially admits in parliament that Gongadze’s body was found in November.

Feb. 13, 2001 – Kuchma, Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and Verkhovna Rada speaker Ivan Plyushch sign a joint letter referring to the participants of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement as “fascists.”

March 23, 2001 – Sergiy Tigipko, then leader of the Labor Party, which was financed by Kuchma’s son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk, announces that his party is hiring Kroll, a U.S.-based company specializing in white-collar crime and security, to probe the Gongadze case. In September, Kroll produces a report saying Kuchma was not involved.

May 15, 2001 – Kuchma announces that he knows the names of Gongadze’s killers.

May 16, 2001 – Interior Minister Yuriy Smirnov says the murder of Gongadze was not politically motivated and was conducted by two criminals who died in 2000.

Oct. 22, 2003 – General Prosecutor Svyatoslav Piskun issues an arrest warrant for Pukach, after establishing that the Interior Ministry followed Gongadze in 2000.

Oct. 29, 2003 – Kuchma dismisses Piskun and his deputy and reshuffles the investigating team.

Nov. 5, 2003 – Pukach, who had been detained, is released from custody thanks to a suspicious court ruling.

Dec. 10, 2004 – Piskun is reinstated as prosecutor general after fighting his dismissal in court.

March 1, 2005 – President Viktor Yushchenko triumphantly announces that the Gongadze case has been solved.

March 3, 2005 – Piskun publicly announces that he wants to question former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko in connection with the Gongadze case.

March 4, 2005 – Kravchenko is found dead in the garage of his suburban home in Koncha Zaspa. He has two gunshot wounds to his head, but his death is officially declared a suicide. An alleged note is found close his body proclaiming his innocence. It said: “I fell victim to political intrigues of Leonid Kuchma.” The notebook from which the piece of paper was taken to make the note was never found.

Nov. 23, 2005 – The Kyiv Appeals Court starts hearing the case of Mykola Protasov, Oleksandr Popovych and Valeriy Kostenko, three lower-level Interior Ministry police officers accused of participating in Gongadze’s murder.

March 15, 2008 – Protasov is convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison, while co-defendants Kostenko and Popovych are also convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for murdering Gongadze.

July 21, 2009 – Pukach is found and arrested in a small village in Zhytomyr Oblast.

Sept. 14, 2010 – The Prosecutor General’s Office announces that the pre-trial investigation into Gongadze’s murder is over. They say Kravchenko ordered Pukach to kill the journalist.

Source: Kyiv Post