Ukraine, including its Supreme Court, is misinforming the international community about the Georgiy Gongadze murder case, says lawyer Tetiana Kostina.
Speaking at a press conference at UNIAN on September 11, Kostina claims the convicted ex-police general Oleksiy Pukach spoke of second president Leonid Kuchma and ex-chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn's complicity in the crime, but the relevant words disappeared from the transcript of his testimony.
The statement comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze, founder of the Ukrainian Pravda online outlet. The lawyer says justice has not yet been served to those who ordered his murder and those who stood behind the attempt on the life of the MP Oleksandr Elyashkevich and the abduction of and assault on journalist Oleksiy Podolsky, whose interests she represents.
Kostina claims that, despite different executioners of the crimes mentioned, the person who ordered all of them is ex-President Leonid Kuchma.
Read alsoCPJ concerned over life sentence appeal in Gongadze murder – mediaKostina appealed to President Volodymyr Zelensky to ensure that the investigation puts those responsible on the dock, since all previous presidents, starting with Viktor Yushchenko (2005-2010), had failed to fulfill the relevant promises.
She also added that with her appeal to Zelensky, she wants to draw attention to the systematic failure of Ukraine to fulfill its obligations regarding high-profile cases, in particular the Gongadze case, and report the falsification of this case to the Supreme Court.
The lawyer explained that back in January 2002, by a parliamentary decree, Ukraine undertook obligations to unconditionally comply with the PACE resolution on the Gongadze, Podolsky, and Elyashkevich cases, but these obligations are yet to be fulfilled.
According to her, in the Elyashkevich case, the obligations have not been fulfilled in full, and in the case of Gongadze and Podolsky, it's the main obligations to find masterminds of the crimes.
"Who are reasonably connected with the then-President Leonid Kuchma," Kostina emphasized.
She added that the "Melnychenko tapes" [recordings purportedly secretly made in Leonid Kuchma's office, leaked by Mykola Melnychenko, one of the President's guards] are far from being the only evidence of Kuchma's involvement in this crime. There is also such weighty evidence as testimony of the murder's executioner, General Pukach, the lawyer claims.
Read alsoBody of Ukrainian journalist Gongadze finally buriedIn order to let Kuchma avoid being charged, the proceedings in Gongadze and Podolsky cases were classified in the court of first instance, so that the public could not monitor the progress of trial, Kostina said, adding that the only open session held in the case was when the verdict was handed down to Pukach. But even this court session saw falsification, she adds.
"Pukach's words, heard all over the world, that he will comprehend the court verdict only when Kuchma and Lytvyn sit in the dock along with him, are now absent from the case file," the lawyer said.
She stressed that these words were deliberately left out of the case file so that Kuchma and Lytvyn, who in 1999-2002 headed the Presidential Administration, could avoid responsibility.
Also, Kostina accused the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice of disinformation provided about the case to the international community.
"Inaccurate information is systematically sent to the Council of Europe, but hushing down or concealing systemic facts of falsification will not work out, since not only the Council of Europe is interested in this case, but also the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress," the lawyer said.
Also, according to her, when the case was heard in the appellate court, the hearings were held with flagrant violations, that is, without victims attending court sessions. Also, Valentyna Telychenko participated as widow Myroslava Gongadze's defense attorney, while her involvement in the case as a lawyer Kostina says was illegal. Kostina also recalled that in 2017, the Court of Cassation removed Telychenko from this case, but the judges of the Supreme Court never complied with the ruling, and Telychenko is still considered a defense attorney.
She also noted that Myroslava Gongadze herself, as a victim, attended only one court session, and allegedly never studied case files.
Kostina noted that in 2015, the court didn't bring Gongadze's daughters as victims after they turned 18, although judges were supposed to do so.
The lawyer is convinced that all these procedural violations in courts of all three instances were committed with the sole purpose of "letting Kuchma avoid responsibility."
In turn, former judge of the Constitutional Court and first prosecutor general of Ukraine Viktor Shishkin noted that in order to "whitewash" Kuchma, Podolsky was recently denied the status of victim in the Gongadze case. According to him, this was done so that he, as a victim, could not put forward petitions for the interrogation of former top officials as witnesses.
Gongadze murder: background
- Georgiy Gongadze, founder of the Ukrainian Pravda online outlet, went missing on September 16, 2000. In November of the same year, his decapitated body was found in a forest near Tarashcha, Kyiv region. The remains of the skull were found in 2009, also in Kyiv region.
- On March 15, 2008, the Kyiv Court of Appeal found three former operatives with the Surveillance Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Valery Kostenko, Mykola Protasov, and Oleksandr Popovych – guilty of Gongadze's murder. The court imprisoned them for terms from 12 to 13 years.
- In January 2013, Police General Oleksiy Pukach, former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Surveillance Department, was sentenced to life.
- The journalist was buried on March 22, 2016, in Kyiv.
- The investigation never identified those who ordered Gongadze's killing.