war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Selective Evidence

Halya Coynash
On Wednesday Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin demonstrated his customary disregard for the presumption of innocence, threatened imminent murder charges against imprisoned former Prime Minister Tymoshenko and also made a curious statement regarding the Gongadze Case.


During Wednesday’s hotline conference organized by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin demonstrated his customary disregard for the presumption of innocence, and also made a curious statement regarding the Gongadze Case. 

Kuzmin was asked who ordered the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze if not former President Leonid Kuchma. He answered that the Prosecutor’s Office in this matter was trying to apply European experience and that they were investigating the possibility of using Mykola Melnychenko’s tapes in court. He mentioned, in fairly vague terms, a European Court of Human Rights judgement which apparently allowed material unlawfully obtained to be used in court. He added that in taking a decision as to whether tapes could be considered evidence, the motives for the illegal tapping are taken into consideration – for example, solving a murder.

The news that Kuchma was to face charges over the Gongadze case made world headlines back in March 2011.  People from the President’s Administration made much of this apparently progress under President Yanukovych after so many years of procrastination, and the news that there was to be a prosecution was welcomed by many international bodies and NGOs.   

Then the Constitutional Court stepped in, as it has a good few times over the last three years. In October 2011 it ruled that evidence obtained through illegal means could not be used as basis for indictments, thus preventing any prosecution of the former President.  Melnychenko made the tapes which appear to implicate Kuchma, Volodymyr Lytvyn (until recently Parliamentary Speaker) and others illicitly. 

Kuchmin also noted that according to the new Criminal Procedure Code a new criminal case does not need to be initiated in order to start an investigation.

He claimed that the Gongadze case is in the register of cases and is under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Such assurances have been heard innumerable times over recent years and may be as empty as they have been under previous Prosecutor Generals.  Up till now only the officers who carried out the killing have been imprisoned, while their boss Oleksy Pukach remains in the entirely illegal Security Service’s remand unit [SIZO] during an endless trial held behind closed doors.

There are, however, added nuances now, and here it may be of relevance to note that Melnychenko arrived back in Ukraine shortly before the elections.  This is despite the fact that the criminal proceedings against him in connection with the tapes were reinstated last year and that he could expect to be arrested on his return to Ukraine. As, indeed, he was, but soon, fairly exceptionally, released on a signed undertaking not to leave. In Kuzmin’s recent epistle to the US President see, he made some noises about Melnychenko’s tapes and testimony shedding light on the murder of MP Eugene Scherban.  As reported here, Kuzmin has been making public, though unsubstantiated, claims about Tymoshenko’s alleged role in this murder for at least a year now.  During Wednesday’s “hotline”, Kuzmin also stated that the Prosecutor was ready to lay new charges against the imprisoned former Prime Minister, but needed the permission of her doctors.  He asserted:

“There are documents that from Yulia Tymoshenko’s accounts money was transferred to pay the killers, but we can’t lay charges at the moment because she’s ill.  As soon as the doctors say that Tymoshenko is well, we will bring this new charge”.

In October 2011 Tymoshenko’s 7-year sentence over the 2009 gas accords with Russia was condemned throughout the democratic world. Within days the Security Service and Prime Minister Azarov began talking about Ms Tymoshenko’s alleged economic crimes.  The charges brought against her have thus far resulted only in a trial which keeps being adjourned due to Ms Tymoshenko’s ill-health.   They have certainly not allayed any concern expressed by the EU, USA and others regarding politically motivated prosecution.

The latest charges would come some 16 years after Scherban’s murder and it is at least curious that such apparently damning “evidence” is only now being mentioned. This, however, is not the only cause for considerable skepticism – and concern over increasingly selective evidence and unsubstantiated accusations. 

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