Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 61

Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Yury Kravchenko has resolutely ruled out that the death of long-time Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil could have been premeditated. He called the road accident late on March 25 near Boryspil International Airport, in which Chornovil was killed, “a tragic coincidence,” the drivers of both vehicles having reportedly violated traffic regulations. Chornovil and the Rukh’s presidential nominee, former Foreign Affairs Minister Hennady Udovenko, who was the first to reach the accident site, were returning to Kyiv in two cars from an electoral campaign trip to Kirovohrad (STV, March 28; Ukrainian agencies, Radio Russia, March 26; see the Monitor, March 26).

Several politicians from various camps alleged that the accident was a successful attempt on Chornovil’s life. Natalya Vitrenko–the outspoken radical “red” and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party who leads in recent presidential polls–even implied that President Leonid Kuchma, “with whom Chornovil recently has been refusing to cooperate,” could be involved. Such voices were the minority and prompted both indignation from Udovenko, who warned against using the accident as a political tool, and skepticism from the Rukh’s press secretary, Dmytro Ponamarchuk, who was in the car with Chornovil but survived the crash.

It is generally expected that Chornovil’s death will reunify the Rukh, Ukraine’s largest pro-Western party, whose smaller and financially weaker portion remained loyal to Chornovil after the party split a month ago. The leader of the Rukh rival wing, Yury Kostenko, called Chornovil’s death “a great tragedy” and promised to “apply every effort” to reunify the party (Inter TV, Den, March 27; see the Monitor, March 1). Chornovil and Kostenko, while disagreeing on such issues as the party’s leadership style and tactical alliances, apparently did not differ on the choice for Udovenko as the Rukh candidate in the presidential elections this October. –OV