Nine years and still no justice for murdered journalist Gyorgy Gongadze

Ukrainian journalists this week marked the ninth anniversary of the death of Gyorgy Gongadze, founder of the Ukrainska Pravda web site. Gongadze’s killing was one of the former Soviet Union’s most notorious political murders. Two hundred people gathered on Wednesday in central Kyiv with candles.

Gongadze was kidnapped in Kyiv on 16 September 2000 by a gang of policemen, taken to woods nearby, beaten, strangled and then beheaded. He probably would have been added to the long list of journalists across the former Soviet Union whose murders remain unsolved and little remarked – except that a couple of months later, a bodyguard of former president Leonid Kuchma put into the public domain tape recordings of Kuchma, current parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and some of their other cronies talking about harming Gongadze.

Since then, former home affairs minister Yuri Kravchenko – who was apparently assigned during those conversations to have someone sort Gongadze out – died in mysterious circumstances (shot himself in the head twice, allegedly?!), and two other key internal affairs officials involved in the chain of command fell into a mysterious coma and then died. 

The murderer, Oleksiy Pukach, was sensationally arrested in July this year. Three cops who helped him are also in prison … but the disgracefully negligent general prosecutor’s office has sabotaged the investigation of how the murder was ordered and organised. None of the instigators have been brought to justice. President Yushchenko has pinned medals on prosecutors who obstructed the investigation. Parliamentary speaker Lytvyn has never said whether that really is his voice on that tape. …

The International Federation of Journalists, together with the Gongadze Foundation and other NGOs, have produced four reports on the case, which provides a textbook example of how criminal networks operate within former Soviet institutions. You can download them all from here: http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/joint-statement-on-ninth-anniversary-of-gyorgy-gongadze-s-death

The site founded by Gongadze has grown to become Ukraine’s premier on-line news source – a fitting response to murderous methods of state censorship. (It’s here – Ukrainian and Russian only: http://pravda.com.ua/.) Its editor, Olena Prytula and her magnificent team of reporters operate from a small flat in central Kyiv, trouncing competitors with quality reporting. Politicians fear them. Long may that continue.

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