Gongadze family lawyer sees serious manipulation with Pukach testimony


Since she has been representing Myroslava Gongadze, the murdered journalist’s widow, Valentine Telychenko has become accustomed to distrusting the Prosecutor General. She has ample grounds for this since it is the Prosecutor General Office’s investigators who have for 9 years been unsuccessfully investigating Georgy Gongadze’s murder. World organizations, from nongovernmental to PACE, have on many occasions stressed that the Gongadze case is a litmus test of Ukraine’s movement towards democracy and the rule of law. Thus far success has been modest. Perhaps the main achievement is that Georgy’s body can probably soon be definitively identified and given a Christian burial. However his killers – those who gave the order to destroy the opposition journalist still enjoy impunity.

How fully do you as the lawyer representing the victim’s family have access to the investigation material at present?

According to Ukraine’s Criminal Procedure Code, I will only have the opportunity to see all the material after the investigation is completed. Until then I can get access to particular material with the consent of the investigator or Prosecutor. I have been permitted to see the resolution appointing a forensic examination of the skull found at the place indicated by Oleksy Pukach, and the experts’ conclusion with regard to this resolution. I have not seen other material.

Why for final identification of the skull is it necessary to have a forensic assessment specifically in the USA?

We insisted on DNA testing of the skull in a forensic institute outside Ukraine. It was the Prosecutor General Office that chose the USA. We don’t however have any objection to this choice. The reason for it being outside Ukraine is the extraordinary political pressure on the investigation, including forensic experts. If the identification of the skull is confirmed, the level of confidence in the Ukrainian experts will increase, and if it is not there will be further questions to the Ukrainian experts.

Are there any doubts that the body found near Tarashcha almost nine years ago was Georgy’s?

Neither Myroslava nor myself have had any doubt now for a long time. After all there was not just a DNA test carried out in 5 different countries, but also an analysis of the grenade wound, the contents of his stomach, and bone injuries which all fully confirm that the body found in the Tarashcha Forest was that of Georgy Gongadze. All the arguments that I find on the Internet or wherever, claiming that it’s not his body, are based on made-up or distorted facts.

What will the results of the forensic test mean for the uncovering of the Gongadze case?

The results of the forensic test are mainly important for the identification of the skull. If the DNA test provides confirmation, then Myroslava will wish to bury the body of her husband.

As far as the investigation is concerned, a positive conclusion will be yet one more piece of evidence of Pukach’s involvement in the crime, however even the evidence already accumulated left no doubts as to this. For the investigation unit most valuable are forensic assessments which make it possible to establish in what conditions and where exactly the skull was after being removed from the body and to verify Pukach’s testimony. As representative of the victim’s family, I have very many questions to the investigation unit and the accused regarding the reburial of the body and the removal of the head.

Should we be hoping that the testimony being provided by former General Pukach will help to identify those who really ordered Georgy Gongadze’s murder?

I suspect that serious manipulation is going on with Pukach’s evidence. On the day after his arrest, the Deputy Prosecutor, Deputy Head of the SBU [Security Service] and the President told us that the arrested man was cooperating with the investigation unit, that he had been questioned, having rejected a lawyer and had named those who ordered the killing. In response to my comment that interrogation of the accused without a lawyer present is a violation of the Criminal Procedure Code, after all one of the crimes he is accused of envisages maximum sentence – life imprisonment, the Prosecutor General Office stated that there had been no interrogation. Does that mean that the Prosecutor General Office misinformed both the President and the public, untruthfully claiming that Pukach had been questioned and was cooperation with the investigation? Or that there was no interrogation, but negotiations with Pukach? The Prosecutor General Office has already had a lot of experience of such “negotiations” with Mykola Melnychenko, so I wouldn’t even be surprised by such “tactics of the investigation.

For almost two months since Pukach’s arrest, the media have been reporting, citing anonymous “sources close to the investigation unit” that Pukach has already named names. For example, recently [Prosecutor General] Medvedko stated that Pukach was “actively cooperating with the investigation bodies”, however “those who ordered the crime have not yet been established.” What does this active cooperation consist of in that case? And who is leading whom by the nose – Pukach the investigators, or the Prosecutor General Office us? Or maybe this is the incompetence of the investigation unit?

I am convinced that with the political will in Ukraine there are investigators who could establish and prove the guilt of those who ordered the crime, especially given that Pukach, whom the investigators have on many occasions named the link between those who ordered it and those who carried out the killing is now in custody.

How do you assess the likelihood that they will lay the blame on people who are dead, for example, former Police Major Kravchenko?

It would seem that it is that which the investigation is now aimed at.

Mykola Melnychenko recently stated again that the present Speaker of Parliament V. Lytvyn is implicated in Gongadze’s killing.

Mr Melnychenko should not make such utterances, but give evidence on a protocol in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code.

How often are you in contact with Myroslava Gongadze? However closely is she following the latest developments in the case?

We are in contact virtually every day. She is full of determination to insist that those who ordered the killing are fully identified.

The interviewer was Oksana Synytska, Institute for Mass Information

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