Official links Kuchma to Gongadze slaying

Jan. 29, 2013 at 5:37 PM

KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A top Ukrainian police official Tuesday said former President Leonid Kuchma and a former parliament speaker ordered journalist Georgy Gongadze killed.

Gen. Oleksiy Pukach was being sentenced for the slaying of Gongadze in 2000 when one of the three judges hearing the case asked if he accepted the verdict.

"I will accept it when Kuchma and [former Speaker Vologymyr] Lytvyn join me in this cage," he said.

Gongadze had been investigating political corruption in Ukraine when a gang of police officers, led by Pukach, kidnapped, beat and beheaded him before burning and burying his remains in a wooded area 75 miles from Kiev, The Financial Times reported.

Pukach -- who had been in hiding for years before his capture in 2009 -- has admitted killing Gongadze, but said he did it on orders from Kuchma, Ukraine's president from 1994 to 2005, and Lytvyn, the newspaper said.

Kuchma and Lytvyn have consistently denied they were involved in Gongadze's death.

Valentyna Telychenko, a lawyer for Gongadze's widow, said, "There is obviously no political will to solve this case, to establish who ordered this murder."

Voices that appeared to be those of Kuchma and top aides were heard on audio recordings -- allegedly taped secretly in Kuchma's office -- discussing plans t have subordinates get rid of Gongadze, the newspaper said.

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