The Annual Meeting opens with a welcome speech by its organizer, son-in-law of President Kuchma – Viktor Pinchuk, who did his best to prevent the trial over Kuchma as an alleged contractor behind Gongadze’s killing. Following Pinchuk, the president delivers his speech.
One of media partners of YES Annual Meeting is Ukrainska Pravda itself.
On Sept. 16, 2000, 16 years ago, Ukrainska Pravda founder Heorhii Gongadze was kidnapped and killed. However, the probe into this case has not been finished. There are three key questions in Gongadze case that could only be answered by the court:
1. The killer of Gongadze has been established – he is Major-General of police Anatolii Pukach, convicted and jailed. He stated he killed Gongadze upon an order of Interior Minister Kravchenko, who was assigned with the task by Kuchma.
However, 16 years later, no court has been set to assess the killer’s statement that the order to kill was made by President Leonid Kuchma.
2. After 16 years, no assessment has been made by court of the recording made during the conversation between Interior Minister Yurii Kravchenko and President Leonid Kuchma in the latter’s office, where he actually approved an attack on the journalist. Many Ukrainian politicians have confirmed the authenticity of the Kuchma office recordings. Moreover, the recordings confirm all details of kidnapping of human rights activist Oleksii Podolskyi ordered by Kuchma. Podolskyi was kidnapped and beaten upon Kuchma’s order; he is still considered a victim, and as long as Kuchma could not be made accountable over the past 16 years due to efforts of the authorities, Podolskyi cannot punish the mastermind behind the kidnapping.
3. In a note that was found near the body of Interior Minister Yurii Kravchenko, the deceased wrote he had fell victim to shenanigans of President Kuchma.
I believe the beginning of the YES Annual Meeting on Sept. 16 obliges its participants, the president of Ukraine in the first place, to start the event with a minute’s silence in memory of Heorhii Gongadze. And to say when eventually the case on the masterminds behind the murder will be transferred to court.
Some say Kuchma is guilty, others say he is not. The only thing that matters here is the court that should assess the accusations and evidence against Kuchma.
Below is an excerpt of Pukach’s lawyer Oleh Musiienko’s interview with Ukrainska Pravda:
“- Do you believe Kuchma and Lytvyn’s role has been proven in the Gongadze case?
“- I believe so.
“- Why are you so sure?
“- Because of Pukach’s testimony which has been confirmed during face-to-face questioning with Lytvyn and Luchma, because of Kravchenko’s suicide note which has been deciphered repeatedly and which reads that he “fell victim to President Kuchma’s shenanigans.”
“… Kuchma was calling. Kravchenko stood straight and said: “Affirmative, Mr. President! We’ll do that, Leonid Danylovych!” Having finished the conversation, Kravchenko turned to Pukach saying: “You see who called?!”
“- Did he mean Gongadze?
“- Did Kravchenko order Pukach to “deal with” Gongadze or “kill” him?
“- To kill, to bury, to burn down. This is testimony of Pukach.”
How was it possible under such circumstances not to hold a trial and assess the entire volume of evidence and the killer’s testimony? There exist strong reasons for holding a court against Kuchma.
On Nov. 2, Prosecutor General Shokin promised to hold a trial against the masterminds:
“We will drive the nail home. A number of very complicated expertise analyses are taking place, extremely complicated, and they are nearing an end – the masterminds will be punished. Not just one,” Shokin stated.
A year later, the case has stalled, no date of trial announced.
On March 27, 2016, on the day of Heorhii Gongadze’s funeral, Deputy Prosecutor General Stoliarchuk said:
“When the trial against Pukach was on, some names came up. He said them himself. People who are, to my opinion, related, who could be named in future as masterminds, are possibly those people you’ve just mentioned. These names will be voiced in the near future, I have reasons to state this.”
Unfortunately, the European Union and the U.S. have also stopped pressuring Ukrainian authorities regarding this matter.
The first mass demonstrations in Ukraine occurred after the publication of Kuchma’s office talks recordings about Gongadze’s murder. Ukrainska Pravda became a leading news website of that time, much due to the stir caused by Heorhii’s death. During the protests, Ukraine saw young and brave politician Yurii Lutsenko, who started his career with participation in the protests titled “Ukraine without Kuchma!” The civil society of Ukraine started its organized political struggle against the feudal regime of Kuchma exactly upon influence of the Gongadze case. The Gongadze case created a protest movement that sparked the “Orange revolution” and took up the career of Petro Poroshenko.
All of us, we know it. All of us who protested, who supported “Ukraine without Kuchma.” All of us who watched manipulative movies like “PR,” shot on order of Pinchuk with the purpose of announcing Kuchma innocent without any legal assessment of available evidence.
A journalist was killed. But the major version on the mastermind of this crime was never tried. This is the most showing demonstration of how the freedom of speech is valued in Ukraine and how journalists are respected. This is the most showing demonstration of justice and law in Ukraine. This is a guarantee of impunity for those who kill or intend to kill other members of the media.
The Gongadze case gave an impulse to political careers of many participants and partners of the YES Annual Meeting. I hope they will demonstrate their principled stance and join the demands to conduct the trial over the masterminds and commissioners of the crime. And a principled stance of the prosecutor general is the most important in this case.
When smiling and shaking hands during meetings and forums, we should not forget that the tragedy of Gongadze is the price of our freedom, and this murder has not been avenged…
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET