As Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh was putting the finishing touches on his new cabinet, it became clear that he, unlike his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, was guided by one overriding principle in making such choices –loyalty to the boss. Indeed, the new ministers consisted of almost exclusively old faces–hardly a surprise given the fact that Kinakh himself had previously headed the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (UUIE), the organization that had launched Kuchma into power. The new-old cabinet seemed have a calming effect on the embattled president after the more than half a year of unpleasantness involving charges that he had colluded in the murder of Georgy Gongadze, the opposition journalist who disappeared last September and whose headless body was found outside Kiev two months later.
Kuchma’s team also hoped the visit by Pope John Paul II would help repair the head of state’s tarnished image. Indeed, Kuchma seemed to bask in the Pope’s glow, praising him as “an unconquerable fighter for the rights and dignity of man.” The pontiff, for his part, largely stuck to protocol and stayed out of the Ukraine’s domestic imbroglio. He did, however, refer to “the temptations linked to crime and corruption” and the need to remember “gift of the Ten Commandments” during an open-air mass.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Mykola Melnychenko, the Ukrainian presidential bodyguard who received refuge in the United States after accusing Kuchma of murdering Gongadze, alleged that Kuchma and Ukrainian mafia were trying to discredit the hundreds of hours of tapes Melnychenko had surreptitiously made in Kuchma’s office. Melnychenko, who left Ukraine with his wife and daughter, said he feared assassination and that there were “substantial further disclosures” to come–involving, among other things, high-level corruption and vote-rigging. Some of the disclosures, he suggested, would be as disturbing as the Gongadze murder.