Yury Smirnov, who is Ukraine’s interior minister, announced last week that the police had solved the murder of opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze, the case which has plunged the country into a deep political crisis because of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s suspected involvement in the crime. The political opposition, however, dismissed out of hand Smirnov’s claim that the dissident journalist had been the victim of ordinary “hooliganism” and that his two murderers were themselves subsequently murdered. Indeed, while Smirnov’s version of events was quite convenient for the authorities, Myroslava Gongadze, the missing journalist’s wife, denounced it as a fabrication, claiming that Smirnov did not have the authority to close the case, which was being led by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Mrs. Gongadze, who made her comments from Washington, fled Ukraine with her two daughters earlier this year and sought political asylum in the United States, as did Mykola Melnychenko, the former presidential bodyguard who claims to have made the tapes that appear to show that Kuchma wanted Gongadze silenced. Kuchma has repeatedly denied the authenticity of the recordings. Meanwhile, members of opposition political parties this week erected a monument to the missing journalist on his 32nd birthday.
[This issue was written by Jonas Bernstein.]