Leonid Kuchma: Might the presidency transform Viktor Yanukovych into a monster?
"Sometimes you cannot help asking yourself: why is it so, that whenever a high ranking official announces that he is taking an investigation under his personal control, the case is sure to be never solved?" — Mykola Veresen
03 November 2004
Leonid Kuchma, President
vul. Bankivska 11
You will recall that on 03-Jul-2001, Ihor Oleksandrov (sometimes "Igor" and sometimes "Aleksandrov"), investigative journalist and director of private TV/radio broadcaster TOR in Slaviansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine was beaten with baseball bats by four men in the stairwell of his office, leaving him with a fractured skull and in a coma, which culminated in his death on 07-Jul-2001. The murder of Ihor Oleksandrov is one in a string of murders of journalists of which your administration has yet to solve its first, and your personally undertaking to supervise the investigation of this particular murder led Mykola
to cynically observe that "Sometimes you cannot help asking yourself: why is it so, that whenever a high ranking official announces that he is taking an investigation under his personal control, the case is sure to be never solved?"
President Leonid Kuchma instructed Prosecutor General Mykhaylo Potebenko and Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Smyrnov on July 10 to ensure a full and transparent investigation into the murder of Ihor Oleksandrov, the director of the TV and radio company TOR. "I will do
everything I can to punish the murderers," Kuchma wrote in a letter to Aleksandrov's widow, Interfax reported on July 10. "The investigation of this outrageous crime is under my personal control."
Aleksandrov hosted an analytical show in which he exposed links between organized crime and corrupt police on TOR television, the oldest private station in Ukraine with a reach of about 2 million regional viewers. His colleagues at TOR link the murder to investigative
reporting on corruption and organized crime in the region, as does Gennady Pochtar, the information and press center director of IREX ProMedia's center in Kiev. "I have no doubt the slaying was connected to his work as a journalist," Pochtar said, recalling an attempt to ban him from working as a journalist. He allegedly violated laws on election coverage in 1998 by calling a deputy "the king of Donbass Vodka."
The complaint was withdrawn in 2000, and the case was closed. However, Aleksandrov asked the Ukrainian courts to annul the original verdict, acknowledge that the public prosecutor's office erred, and grant compensation for moral damages. His appeal was denied.
Pochtar said IREX's Legal Defense and Education Program had helped the journalist to wage the legal battle, which eventually wound up in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Aleksandrov's murder came nearly a year after journalist Georgy Gongadze, publicly appealed to authorities to reign in agents who tailed him and harassed employees of his Internet site, Ukrainska Pravda.
Internews-Ukraine, Quarterly Media Report, October 2001
Those close to the above events undoubtedly understand who murdered Ihor Oleksandrov and why. The public begins to piece together a picture which implicates primarily Supreme Rada member Leshchynsky (sometimes "Leshchinsky"), as for example from his being briefly mentioned on the U.S. Embassy web site at Crime Digest, July 2001
kiev.usembassy.gov/files/rso_crime_digest_july_2001.doc, and from the more detailed discussion by Serhii RAKHMANIN, Yulia MOSTOVAYA, and Serhii KORABLYOV, Once Upon a Time in Wild-Wild Ukraine, Zerkalo Nedeli, 14-20 July 2001
www.mirror-weekly.com/nn/show/350/31594/ whose purport was introduced by the following illustration:
More to the point is that Major Mykola Melnychenko has reappeared on the scene with tape recordings which raise the suspicion that your protégé, Viktor Yanukovych, may have been an interested party in the Ihor Oleksandrov murder:
Bombs and Smashing Heads
20 October 2004
Major Mykola Melnychenko, the whistleblower in the tape scandal, surfaced in Warsaw yesterday, with — guess what — new tapes. A voice "similar to that of Premier Yanukovych," then the governor of Donetsk, is heard discussing with Kuchma back in 1999 his latest achievements in buying up votes in parliament and cracking down on independent businesspeople. He also boasts that all but two newspapers in his province are firmly under the authorities' control and that journalists who don't toe the line "will have their heads smashed against the wall." Campaigning journalist Ihor Oleksandrov had his head smashed not long after that — not against the wall, but by baseball bats. Shocking? Not in Ukraine. Everyone in Ukraine knows that, officially, the tapes are fakes. And if they are fake, who would care to show them on TV, where 80 percent of Ukrainians get their news?
Ivan Kolos, Transitions Online
At the time that you first became president of Ukraine, you had not already served two prison terms, whereas your favored presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, already has. You had not demonstrated such poor judgment as to collapse in pretended unconsciousness when hit on the chest by an egg, but Viktor Yanukovych already has. You had not, before you became president, been recorded boasting of buying votes in parliament, but Viktor Yanukovych already has. You did not begin suppressing freedom of the press until after you became president, but Viktor Yanukovych has already been at it for years. You were not implicated in the murder of journalist Heorhy Gongadze until after you became president, but Viktor Yanukovych years ago already boasted that intractable journalists, of whom few remained in Donetsk and among whom Ihor Oleksandrov stood out, would have their heads smashed against the wall.
The question is, then, that if with your more promising beginning, the presidency turned you into a gangster, then into what can we expect it to turn poor Viktor Yanukovych — a gangster already — except a monster?