Ex-Ukrainian leader to be questioned

April 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM
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KIEV, Ukraine, April 11 (UPI) -- Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma says he has been ordered to appear before a prosecutor in the slaying of a journalist in 2000.

Kuchma said in an RIA Novosti report Monday he asked the Ukranian prosecutor general's office for permission to attend festivities in Moscow commemorating the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight because a travel ban would prohibit him from being there.

Ukrainian prosecutors opened a criminal case against Kuchma in March on suspicion of his involvement in the murder of Georgy Gongadze. Kuchma was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005.

Not long after the journalist's decapitated body was found in a forest near Kiev in November 2000, Kuchma's former bodyguard released a tape in which Kuchma allegedly talks of a plan to kill Gongadze. Kuchma has denied any involvement in the reporter's death.

"They are trying, as they say, to bring me to my knees or even lower, and I can't figure out today what the prosecutor general's office and the investigation authorities want from me, the truth or something else," Kuchma said.

Three former employees of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigations department were convicted of murdering Gongadze in June 2008. They said they killed the journalist on orders from Lt. Gen. Oleksiy Pukach, the former head of the ministry's criminal investigations department.

Pukach was arrested in 2009 and is awaiting trial.

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