- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

KIEV, Ukraine The head of a parliamentary committee charged with investigating the murder of an Internet journalist says no progress can be made in the inquiry under the country's current leadership.
Commission head Oleksander Zhyr made his complaint just days after an FBI team returned to the United States reporting no progress in assisting the probe into the death of journalist Georgiy Gongadze.
"The West and the United States had one more chance to be convinced the government in Ukraine is not interested in the investigation," Mr. Zhyr told a news conference.
"The government is doing all it can so that the truth is not found out because these crimes are connected to the circle of the president," he said.
Mr. Gongadze's headless body was found in a forest 18 months ago, after President Leonid Kuchma supposedly was heard on secretly recorded tapes telling aides to get rid of the journalist, who had reported on corruption within the president's administration.
The FBI team, assigned to the bureau's National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, traveled to Kiev at the invitation of the Ukrainian government.
Although investigators met with officials from Ukraine's ministry of internal affairs, security service and prosecutor general's office between April 8 and 15, it made no headway in the investigation, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said.
Ukrainian officials told the FBI their country's laws prohibited them from sharing any information not in the public domain and that they were unable to discuss any aspect of the case, share evidence or conduct a joint site inspection, the embassy said.
"Because of this, the FBI team could not provide suggestions that might help Ukrainian law enforcement authorities advance the investigation of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze," the embassy statement read. The FBI had not planned to conduct its own inquiry.
Mr. Zhyr said he was not surprised the team went home empty-handed.
"I don't believe that in Ukraine any criminal case can be investigated which is related to the president or the executive until that time that Mykhailo Potubenko is general prosecutor," he said. Mr. Potubenko, a communist, was appointed to his post by the president.
Mr. Zhyr said he would push for Ukraine's newly elected parliament, expected to meet for the first time on May 15, to take aggressive action in resolving the murder. Whether he is able to do so remains unclear.
The FBI visit would have been a good opportunity for Mr. Kuchma, who maintained his innocence regarding the killing in an interview with The Washington Times last year, to help clear his name, said Mr. Zhyr.
The president, however, found himself facing new charges that he personally approved the sale of weapons to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Victor Shyshkin, a noted lawyer, said the government was afraid that resolving the case and subsequent burial of Mr. Gongadze's remains, which are still stored in a Kiev morgue, could bring down Mr. Kuchma.
The unresolved death has remained a major sticking point between Kiev and Washington.

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