- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

KIEV — Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was questioned yesterday in connection with the 2000 slaying of Georgy Gongadze, an Internet journalist who investigated government corruption.

Prosecutors said Mr. Kuchma came in before lunch for questioning as a witness in the case, but they refused to say how long the session lasted or what was discussed.

It is not clear whether he will be questioned again.

Mr. Kuchma’s opponents have accused him of giving the order that led to Mr. Gongadze’s abduction in 2000. The journalist’s decapitated body was found more than a month later in a forest outside Kiev.

Mr. Kuchma has denied all accusations.

“Kuchma has said that his conscience is clean before God, the people and before Gongadze,” the Associated Press quoted his spokeswoman Olena Hromnitska as saying.

President Viktor Yushchenko, whose December election victory ushered the opposition into power, has said solving the Gongadze case was a matter of honor for him and his administration.

“The world wants to know why [Mr. Gongadze] was killed and who organized it,” Mr. Yushchenko told European ministers meeting in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, about mass-media issues yesterday.

Last Friday, former Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko was found fatally shot in an apparent suicide hours before his scheduled questioning in the case.

Mr. Gongadze’s slaying and the release of secret recordings that purportedly implicate Mr. Kuchma sparked massive street protests and became a rallying cry that helped unite the opposition in this ex-Soviet republic, propelling it to power last year.

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