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New Team to Investigate Ukrainian Journalist's Murder - 2002-07-19

Ukraine's top prosecutor's office has ordered new genetic tests on a body earlier identified as that of a missing journalist. The body was found in a wooded area near Kiev in November 2000. The latest twist in a case that has aroused public protest and brought a denial of involvement by Ukraine's president.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office has set up a new team to investigate the disappearance and suspected murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin said the new genetic tests are being ordered because of contradictory findings by foreign forensic experts.

Mr. Shokin also said new outside investigators will re-examine controversial audio recordings that allegedly point to presidential involvement in Mr. Gongadze's disappearance. The prosecutor said there is new evidence surrounding the tapes, but he declined to provide specifics.

An independent journalist in Ukraine, Yevgeny Tsyganok, said there have been so many investigations it is hard to tell what, if anything, this latest probe will mean.

"All of us who knew Gongadze believe that there will be some advancement in the case. But, frankly, no one expects too much of the new probes and tests," Mr. Tsyganok said. Mr. Tsyganok said the most promising thing, in his view, is that the controversial audio recordings will again be examined.

When the tapes and the allegations they contained were first made public, widespread street protests erupted that threatened to bring down President Leonid Kuchma's government.

The opposition accuses top Ukrainian officials of complicity in Mr. Gongadze's disappearance, a charge President Kuchma denies.