Let us remind our readers that on January 29, 2013, the Pechersky District Court of Kyiv sentenced the former head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s external surveillance department Oleksii Pukach to imprisonment for life, seizure of property, and a prohibition to hold public positions. The main executor of the crime was also deprived of the Major General rank and was obliged to pay 500 thousand hryvnias to Myroslava Gongadze, wife of the murdered journalist, and 100 thousand hryvnias to the public activist Oleksii Podolsky. Pukach was found guilty of beating Podolsky and murdering Gongadze.
The news immediately caused a stir in Ukraine and abroad. The following key issues were raised: is this the final decision on the case or not? Will everything be blamed on the deceased minister Kravchenko, who was murdered according to Podolsky, or will prosecution continue looking for masterminds?
Most of the participants of the lawsuit announced immediately they would submit appeals. The defense said they would appeal the cruel sentence. Valentyna Telychenko, Myroslava Gongadze’s representative in court, said they would appeal because “the motives of the crime were not fully established.” And the victim Oleksii Podolsky submitted his appeal yesterday. He shared the text of the appeal exclusively with The Day. Here are excerpts from Podolsky’s document, which he called A Hopelessly Optimistic Appeal:
♦ “For almost 13 years I have been watching the investigation and trials of cases on criminal violence, which was carried out on the orders from the top political rulers if Ukraine, including president Leonid Kuchma, his family, and his political entourage. It was carried out effectively by the workers of the law enforcement system. I have been following the cases on Heorhii Gongadze’s murder, attempt upon Oleksandr Yeliashkevych’s life, and tortures of me, Oleksii Podolsky.
“…What exactly gives me a right to question the competence of this sentence?
“Firstly, the presiding judge Melnyk knowingly and intentionally blocked that part of judicial inquiry which had to do with investigation of motives of crimes and determining the masterminds. Moreover, Melnyk did not carry out his duty of a judge in examining Pukach’s motives, he flagrantly violated my constitutional rights of the victim as he stubbornly and persistently refused to summon to the court all the witnesses who could have clarified the motivation of Pukach’s crimes. The witnesses who were identified by Pukach as direct masterminds of the murder of Gongadze and my torturing. These witnesses are, first of all, Leonid Kuchma and Volodymyr Lytvyn.
“Secondly, with the same stubbornness and bias, Melnyk rejected all my requests to investigate circumstances of the death of the former internal affairs minister Kravchenko, who appeared as the main organizer of crimes conducted by Pukach and his subordinates in the indictment. Thus, presiding judge Melnyk deliberately closed the court’s eyes to two criminal offences, the evidence of which has been contained in the case file. There is evidence of the assassination of Kravchenko, who had been the link that connected the masterminds and executors of Kuchma and his family and political environment.
“Thirdly, instead of pointing out the completely illegitimate qualification of crimes conducted by Pukach against me and Heorhii Gongadze, judge Melnyk did not make any changes to the legal nihilism of the politically motivated persecution embodied by the General Prosecutor’s Office. The murder of Heorhii Gongadze was a ‘contract killing’ (this wording is not present in the Criminal Code of Ukraine), and in my case, Pukach exceeded his authority. He allegedly had been authorized to hit me once, but instead he hit me multiple times. I want to draw Your attention to what the court has established in my episode: according to the criminal order of minister Kravchenko, Pukach and his subordinates kidnapped me, took me 100 kilometers away from Kyiv, brutally beat me up, abused my dignity, and threatened to murder me. All this was done by previous concert and with the sole purpose that I and my fellow associates cease our public activity.
“…Only the blind, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, and the Pechersky Court of Ukraine cannot see the absolute and obvious correspondence of the crime committed against me to what is classified as torture.”
It is known that in 2012 Podolsky boycotted court proceedings against Pukach. One of the reasons for that was that judge Melnyk ignored the victim’s petitions. “Twice I have filed a peremptory challenge to judge Melnyk, who himself was involved in fraud of cases in favor of persons who stood behind the crimes against me and Gongadze,” Podolsky writes in his appeal. “It was Melnyk who falsified court proceedings and verdict in the case of the attempted assassination of MP Yeliashkevych in 2002, during Kuchma’s presidency. Moreover, while holding the post of the deputy head of the Pechersky Court, Melnyk impudently blocked the victim’s appeal in order to hide his own malfeasance. It is known that this crime was committed in Leonid Kuchma’s interests, and there are serious grounds to believe he was the mastermind of this crime. Details and evidence of Melnyk’s guilt can be found in my peremptory challenge to judge Melnyk. I demand that they be added to the materials of appeal proceedings.”
♦ Podolsky enumerated his claims to the Kyiv Court of Appeal in the final part of his appeal:
“1. Cancel the ruling of the Pechersky District Court of Kyiv, made on January 29, 2013, passed on Pukach.
2. Institute the second, public trial, which would thus eliminate violation of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, which have been committed by judge Melnyk. Institute the second trial that would include a comprehensive and full judicial investigation. The second trial, which would include a proper investigation of motives of crimes conducted by Pukach, examining the relevant witnesses, and examination of the materials of the case which directly point to the masterminds of Pukach’s crimes. The second trial that would publicly study the materials of the case concerning the death of Kravchenko, and force the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine to investigate the assassination of the main witness in the case, as well as the outrageous forgery of the report on his alleged suicide.
3. Classify Pukach’s crime against Gongadze as assassination and his crime against me as torture.
4. Pronounce a separate ruling by the Court of Appeal on violation of laws and the Constitution of Ukraine by judge Melnyk, and also violation of victims’ rights, which he committed during the court proceedings in the Pukach’s case, according to Article 380 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine.”
One more important point, which has actually become the main summary of Pukach’s trial, should also be mentioned. After announcing the verdict, the judge asked Pukach if he agreed to the sentence, and the latter answered: “I will agree to it when Kuchma and Lytvyn are put in this cage [the doc. – Ed.] here next to me, too.” At the same time, Pukach said in his short commentary to the media after the court hearing: “…for the motive of the crimes, go to Lytvyn and Kuchma.”
However, those who read the verdict carefully, noticed Pukach’s testimony, who said the following: “Approximately on September 11, 2002, he [Pukach] was summoned by Kravchenko. The latter told him that the activities that were carried out with Podolsky, had to be carried out with Gongadze too. In particular, it was said that it was necessary to ‘remove’ Gongadze so nobody would ever find him, because he sent false information about the country’s leaders abroad. When Pukach asked what Kravchenko meant by ‘removing,’ the latter said that Gongadze had to be killed and his body was to be burned and buried. Also, Kravchenko said that he spoke on behalf of the president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.”
Right after the sentence was announced (January 30, 2013), The Day addressed the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine with a request to respond to Pukach’s testimony and appeal statement about former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and MP Volodymyr Lytvyn. Will the General Prosecutor’s Office take them into consideration? In what way can they be used and help the investigation find the masterminds of Podolsky’s beating and Gongadze’s murder?
♦ Recently (on February 11, 2013), we received an answer. We were informed that the request was reviewed, and reminded of the articles according to which Pukach was sentenced. We were also told that “the sentence has not yet entered into force.” The answer was following:
“The matter of recognition of Pukach’s testimony on involvement of other persons to the crimes committed by him in the criminal proceedings of the fact of Gongadze’s murder is part of the court’s exclusive jurisdiction according to the effective Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine (Articles 84-89).
“The General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine carries out preliminary investigation in criminal proceedings of the fact of abuse of power and exceeding official authority by persons who held particularly responsible positions, which lead to serious consequences on legally protected rights and interests of Heorhii Gongadze on the grounds of a crime described in Part 3 of Article 166 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (as amended in 1960) and the fact of incitement and organization of murder of Heorhii Gongadze by previous concert by a group of people on the grounds of the crime described in Parts 4 and 5 of Article 99 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
“At the moment, evidence is being collected and investigative procedures, aimed at determination of all participants of crime against Heorhii Gongadze, implemented. After the results of the preliminary investigation are known, a legal assessment of the action of every person involved in the commission of the crime against Heorhii Gongadze will be given, and corresponding procedural decisions will be passed.”
Then the answer says that “a person who is detained, suspected, or accused of committing a crime may be disclosed only when the verdict of guilty enters into force.” It also says that “the preliminary investigation information can be disclosed only with the permission of the investigator or the prosecutor and to the extent which they consider appropriate.”
So, judging by the information given above, we can come to a conclusion that Pukach’s conviction is not going to end the Gongadze case; there is more to follow.