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Gongadze Case: Pukach says Kuchma and Lytvyn should be on trial

On Tuesday, former Police General Oleksy Pukach was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. His final words to the court were that he would agree if Kuchma and Lytvyn were on trial with him. He had told everything, he said, but nobody in the court wanted to know

Pukach on 29.01.2013, Leonid Kuchma and Volodymyr Lytvyn in an earlier photo

On Tuesday, former Police General Oleksy Pukach was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.

The sentence (which also included confiscation of property and a ban on holding public office) was read out in the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on Tuesday. The court also allowed civil compensation suits from Myroslav Gongadze, the journalist’s widow, for 500 thousand EUR, and from Oleksy Podolsky for 100 thousand UAH.

The investigators found (controversially) that Pukach carried out the murder on instructions from Yury Kravchenko, the then Interior Minister who is officially recorded as having committed suicide (with two gunshot wounds to the head) in early 2005.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Pukach’s final words in court can be seen as acknowledging that former President Leonid Kuchma and then Head of the President’s Administration, later Parliamentary Speaker and now MP, Volodymyr Lytvyn were implicated in the journalist’s murder. 

Asked by Judge Melnyk if he agreed with the sentence, Pukach replied: “I’ll agree if Kuchma and Lytvyn are in this cage with me”.

“I told them everything during the investigation and the trial, but only Fedur in this court wanted to know the truth”, Pukach said.

Valentina Telychenko, who has represented Myroslava Gongadze’s interests in the trial, said the following:

“Thank God that phrase was not just heard by me, but by journalists. In fact  in his pre-trial and court testimony, Pukach repeatedly spoke of Kuchma and Lytvyn, about where and when he met with Lytvyn, however that wasn’t used in the investigation into who ordered the murder”/

Telychenko will be appealing against the sentence and demanding that those who ordered the murder in 2000 of Georgy Gongadze are identified.

Pukach’s lawyer, H. Demydenko says that he will also be appealing against the sentence which he calls too harsh.

As reported here, much was made in early 2011 when criminal proceedings were initiated against Leonid Kuchma over the Gongadze case.   Optimism that progress would finally be made on identifying those who ordered the journalist’s killing soon fizzled. In October the Constitutional Court obligingly ruled that evidence could not be used that had not been legitimately obtained by an investigative body.  Melnychenko illicitly taped conversations in the President’s room.

While appeals against the closure of the criminal case against Kuchma were still continuing, the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv  decided that the decision by the Prosecutor General’s Office back in 2001 to initiate criminal proceedings against former Presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko had been lawful. In so doing it rejected an appeal from Mr Melnychenko’s lawyer, Mykola Nedilko.

From 2001 to 2004 criminal investigations were initiated against Melnychenko on charges of exceeding his authority, divulging state secrets, as well as of creating artificial evidence for the prosecution. In March 2005 the investigations were terminated by Prosecutor General Piskun. In June 2011 Kuchma’s lawyers appealed to the Pechersky District Court against the termination of the criminal investigation. That appeal was allowed, and the criminal investigation against Melnychenko reinstated. He had been on the international wanted list since September 2011.  It is now looking as though that case may be forgotten about. Since Melnychenko rather inexplicably returned to Ukraine just before the 2012 elections, Deputy Prosecutor General Rinat Kuzmin has claimed that Melnychenko has given testimony against Yulia Tymoshenko.

Presumably that testimony will not be subjected to a Constitutional Court judgement.

The entire Pukach trial took place behind closed doors with all lawyers, including those representing Myroslava Gongadze severely restricted in what they could say. 

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