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21.02.2013

Kuzmin strikes again

   

 

Renat Kuzmin at an earlier interview. That on Wednesday is available at Echo Moskvy

Renat Kuzmin, First Deputy Prosecutor General, has told the Russian radio station that the Prosecutor’s Office has sufficient evidence to prove that former President Leonid Kucham was involved in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.  He also claimed that they are in a position to charge imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Pavlo Lazarenko, with financing the killing in 1996 of MP and businessman Eugene Shcherban in 1996  (information about the evidence thus far here)  Kuzmin made other controversial statements as well (the interview in Russian can be heard here.  )

The disregard shown the principle of presumption of innocence has become so standard that it is not worth mentioning. In this, it must be said, Kuzmin, and the Prosecutor General himself, Viktor Pshonka, do not especially differ from their predecessors.

Kuzmin’s assertions regarding Kuchma may or may not be linked with the coming EU-Ukraine Summit.   The original announcement that criminal proceedings were to be initiated against Kuchma in April 2011 came at a time when concern was finally being expressed beyond Ukraine over former Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko’s continued detention,   criminal cases against Yulia Tymoshenko and other prosecutions.  Much was then made of the fact that it was under Yanukovych that progress had been made into the case.  It had become evident early on during Yushchenko’s presidency that any assurances that the case would be investigated properly were mere words. . 

Cautious optimism in that respect fizzled in October 2011 when the Constitutional Court issued a judgement which stated that prosecutions could not be based on information received through investigative operations carried out by people unauthorized to do so.  Presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko acted on his own initiative when he illicitly taped conversations between Kuchma and others.  Following this, all court instances found that there were no grounds for the criminal case which Kuzmin had initiated.   Unlike members of Tymoshenko’s government, there had been effectively no restraints placed on Kuchma’s movements.

Kuzmin has now claimed, though  without giving any detail, that the Prosecutor’s Office has more evidence of Kuchma’s complicity in the murder of Georgy Gongadze in September 2000.

At the same time as Ukrainian courts were finding no grounds for prosecuting Kuchma, criminal proceedings against Melnychenko were being reinstated – see http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1357674509 for the latest on this.

Kuzmin’s claims on Ekho Moskvy came less than a month after former police chief Oleksy Pukach received a life sentence for his role in the killing.  As reported here, the lawyer representing Gongadze’s widow has lodged an appeal against the verdict on the grounds that the court examination did not fully investigate who ordered the killing.

The entire trial was, despite dubious justification and international criticism, held behind closed doors, with lawyers unable to divulge any details. On the day of the verdict, however, Pukach was able to state that he believed Kuchma and Volodymyr Lytvyn, then Head of the President’s Administration, now MP, should have been on trial with him. Most importantly, he said, with this finally being heard by the many journalists present, that he had repeatedly spoken of kuchma and Lytvyn’s role  but that the court had not wanted to listen. 

(Halya Coynash)

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