Reporters Without Borders described the trial of the two alleged killers of journalist Igor Alexandrov as a new test for the Ukrainian government, as it opened on 10 May in Lugansk, in the east of the country, according to a press-release of the Reporters Without Borders, forwarded to UNIAN.

The press freedom organisation said it hoped that the judicial authorities would be able to fully elucidate the July 2001 murder of the director-general of TOR television in Slaviansk, in the Donetsk region, one of the most momentous since that of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze.

"The judicial authorities must definitely decide whether the alleged killers are guilty on the basis of solid proof," it said. "We have already condemned the lack of independence of the justice system at the time of the killing, under the presidency of Leonid Kuchma. We do not want the Alexandrov case to go the same way today.

We expect the new prosecutor in charge of the case to present an unambiguous version of the facts against the accused and the motives for the murder," the organisation added.

Members of the "17th zone" criminal gang were charged in the autumn of 2003. The prosecutor Valientine Briantsev, called for a life sentence against Aleksander Rybak and a 15-year prison sentence for his brother, Dmitri Rybak, both designated as instigators of the murder.

The two continue to deny their guilt since their arrest in September 2003. The perpetrators, Aleksandr Onichko and Rouslan Touroussov, assisted by an accomplice, Sergei Koritski, have admitted beating the journalist to death.

The evidence of civil parties to the trial, lawyers and the accused are expected to last until at least the end of the month.