16 September 2002
Ambassador promises investigation
Ukraine's charge d'affaires in the UK, Ihor Prokopchuk, today promised
journalists that his government would make sure the killing of Gyorgy
Gongadze was properly investigated.
A delegation from the National Union of Journalists of UK and Ireland,
headed by its general secretary Jeremy Dear, met with Prokopchuk on the
second anniversary of investigative reporter Gongadze's death.
Journalists, both British and Ukrainian, demonstrated outside the Ukrainian
embassy in London to coincide with events marking the anniversary in Kyiv,
and other European and American cities.
Prokopchuk told the NUJ delegation that a fresh inquiry into Gongadze's
death launched by Ukraine's new general prosecutor, Svyatoslav Piskun, would
accept as evidence audio tapes released by major Mykola Melnychenko, a
former bodyguard of Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.
One of the tapes records voices, apparently those of Kuchma and other senior
ministers, conspiring to harm Gongadze.
But Prokopchuk threw doubt on whether the government would work with the
independent international inquiry into Gongadze's death that is being
demanded by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly and journalists'
He said there was no provision under Ukrainian law or international treaty
obligations for the independent international inquiry. He would not comment
on calls for the law to be amended to make the inquiry possible, although he
said Ukrainian law enforcement agencies wanted to collaborate with foreign
police forces on the case where possible under law.
Prokopchuk acknowledged that the integrity of previous investigations into
Gongadze's murder had been questioned both inside and outside Ukraine.
"The issue is at the top of our agenda, too. Gyorgy Gongadze is remembered
by our people." Piskun is "re-energising the investigation", he said.
Piskun's investigation has taken on an open flavour that contrasts sharply
with previous official attitudes to the case. At a press conference in Kyiv
on Saturday he said that Gongadze's murder was "political, and carried out
on someone's orders". It had been "organised by specialists", he said.
A Ukrainian parliamentary ad-hoc commission on the Gongadze case is piling
pressure on Piskun. Earlier this month its chairman Hryhoriy Omelchenko
called on president Kuchma to resign, and said that the commission believed
that Piskun should charge Kuchma, along parliamentary speaker Volodymyr
Lytvyn, former security policy chief Leonid Derkach and former interior
minister Yury Kravchenko for involvement in Gongadze's murder.
After today's meeting with Prokopchuk, NUJ leader Dear addressed a crowd of
campaigners who picketed the embassy with placards saying "Remember Gyorgy
Gongadze: defend press freedom". He said the union would "continue to
mobilise and campaign" on the case. "Institutions are moving because people
are protesting. Let's step up the pressure," he said.
The only small cloud on a sunny morning was an overzealous officer from the
diplomatic protection squad who rushed up to the peaceful demonstrators and
demanded that they move across the road from the Ukrainian embassy - which
they did, after an argument and a photo session.