- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

The murder of Ukrainian Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze "opened a Pandoras box" by exposing problems that had long existed, his widow Myroslava Gongadze, told editors and reporters of The Washington Times. Accompanied by her twin daughters, Mrs. Gongadze described the Kafkaesque fear that she and her husband lived under during the last months of his life. "There were many times when I left the apartment and I saw a man sitting on a bench across the street," said Mrs. Gongadze, whose husband was followed and photographed. One night, when he was the last person working in his office, Mr. Gongadze called his wife to tell her there were three police cars outside his office. "Dont call me," he told her, "the phones are bugged."
Mr. Gongadze disappeared in September, and his body was found in November with one are protruding from the shallowly dug grave. His death has generated the most severe turmoil in Ukraine since it regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Thousands of Ukrainians believe that their president, Leonid Kuchma, ordered Mr. Gongadze killed and have taken to the streets in outrage. Mr. Kuchma, who got 16 million votes in the 1999 elections, now has the support of just 6 percent to 12 percent of Ukraines 50 million people. Also, the dismissal of former Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko, a free-market crusader and Ukraines most trusted politician, has added to their mounting frustration. And the 41-nation Council of Europe, a governmental human rights organization, has recommended that the Ukraine be suspended.
Tapes that record Mr. Kuchma ordering his interior minister to "drive" Mr. Gongadze "out" are incriminating. "Give him to the Chechens. Undress him. Leave him without his pants," said the voice on the tape. Former security officer Mykola Melnichenko, who has been given U.S. asylum, said he made the tapes in Mr. Kuchmas office. Mr. Kuchma has denied the tapes authenticity and experts have been unable to certify their validity. What remains clear, however, is that Mr. Gongadze was an outspoken critic of Mr. Kuchma, and in Ukrainian politics there is plenty to hide.
At an April 9 news conference, Roman Kupchinsky, director of the Ukrainian Broadcast Service of Radio Liberty, said that leading politicians in the countrys parliament and public sector were little better than gangsters. And Mr. Gongadze, it appeared, was closing in on one of these "gangsters."
Belgium authorities, who have accused Oleksander Volkov (leader of the Regional Revival parliamentary faction) of laundering millions of dollars, invited Mr. Gongadze to come over to do some investigating. In addition, Mr. Gongadze spoke out against irregularities in the 1999 elections and, along with 40 other journalists, signed a letter criticizing a lack of press freedoms in the Ukraine. "Obviously, they dont forget about that," said Mrs. Gongadze.
Also telling is the subterfuge that Mrs. Gongadze herself encountered. After her husbands disappearance in September, the Council of Europe invited her to a television conference with Ukrainian journalists. But when she reached the elegant building the conference was to be held at, she found that police and firefighters had cordoned it off to investigate what they said was a bomb threat. A bomb was never found, of course, but the conference went on, nevertheless, over telephones.
Mrs. Gongadze said her husbands frank journalism sometimes made her fear for his safety. "You have to be careful," she used to tell him, its "not necessary to write so sharply." But after having observed three wars and survived a debilitating injury, Mr. Gongadze was fearless and driven.
Tragically, this brave journalist leaves behind his lovely young wife and adorable twins, just 3 1/2 years old and, it appears, enormous troubles for Mr. Kuchma.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide