News / Europe

Ukraine Opens Probe Against Ex-President Kuchma in Journalist's Murder

Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation against the country's former president, Leonid Kuchma, on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 murder of an opposition journalist.

Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin announced the probe Tuesday, after a decade of pressure from Mr. Kuchma's opponents.   

The investigation will decide whether there are grounds to charge Mr. Kuchma in the murder of Georgy Gongadze.  

The editor of the online newspaper, Ukrainska Pravda, sharply critical of Mr. Kuchma, was kidnapped in September 2000 when he was 31.  His headless body was later discovered outside the capital, Kyiv.

The opposition blames the murder on Mr. Kuchma, citing tape recordings of a talk allegedly held between the former president and his interior minister, Yury Kravchenko.  The voices on the tape talk about eliminating Gongadze.

The tapes were allegedly recorded in Mr. Kuchma's office by one of his bodyguards, but their authenticity has never been officially confirmed.

Mr. Kuchma has always denied any involvement in Gongadze's murder.  Mr. Kuchma has been banned from leaving Ukraine amid the investigation.

Last year, prosecutors said former Interior Minister Kravchenko ordered the murder.

Kravchenko has been dead since 2005, when he was found in his home with gunshot wounds to the head.  His death was  declared a suicide.

Two former police officials are serving prison sentences for their role in Gongadze's death and a third is awaiting trial.   

But questions have remained over the true mastermind of the killing.  

Mr. Kuchma was Ukraine's president from 1994-2005.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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