Three police officers jailed for Gongadze’s murder
Some much needed closure arrived over the weekend for the family of Heorhiy Gongadze (May 21, 1969 – Sept 16 2000), a reporter and founder of Ukrayinska Pravda who was brutally murdered for being a critic of the Kuchma regime’s incompetency and corrupt administration. His decapitated and acid-laced body was found in the Taraschanskyi Raion of the Kyiv Oblast two months after he was reported missing.
His murder prompted many protests in Ukraine, as many high-profiled crimes against journalists went unresolved during the course of the Kuchma administration. There was much evidence to implicate Kuchma in the murder, including over 700 hours of recorded conversations between himself and Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, but unfortunately no conviction was made due to corruption, hampering and obstruction. It became a hot issue in Ukrainian politics, and a catalyst for the Orange Revolution.
On March 1, 2005 President Yushchenko announced that his killers were apprehended and three years later on March 15 Mykola Protasov, Valeriy Kostenko and Oleksandr Popovich, senior police officers working in the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations directorate (CID) were sentenced to prison for 15, 13 and 13 years respectively. Kravchenko, who received orders in the recorded conversations by Kuchma to “take care” of Gongadze was found dead in his apartment near Kyiv on March 4, 2005 after being called as a witness to the murder case. An apparent suicide, some news reports suggested that suffering two gunshot wounds to the head in the manner he received would indicate foul play. It is believed that Kravchenko gave the killing orders to Police General Oleksiy Pukach to assemble with a group of high-class detectives he controls “without any morals, and ready to do anything”. Pukach remains at large and an international warrant is out for his arrest. It is believed he has fled Ukraine and was last spotted in Israel.