Our interview with MP of two convocations Oleksandr Yeliashkevych was held just before the recent high-profile events. His words about something brewing at the prosecutor’s office have been confirmed with fantastic accuracy. Many think of Renat Kuzmin’s transfer to the National Security Council as a result of a certain combination connected with Tymoshenko case and signing the Association Agreement in Vilnius. Yeliashkevych in his interview also gave clear hints that the basis for the staff changes and loud statements made by Yulia Tymoshenko’s lawyer Serhii Vlasenko concerning her consent for treatment in Germany, should be seen in the opportunities and the game played by the family of the former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma against the current government. “Kuchma needs Tymoshenko only as a pressure leverage against Yanukovych,” said Yeliashkevych.
“The information has been presented to the public, particularly through Serhii Vlasenko, who is not directly linked to this process at all,” said Ukrainian expert Oleksandr Sushko (unian.ua). “Heads of the Monitoring Mission of the European Parliament Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski try to move the process through the public space, making this scenario known to public and receiving Tymoshenko’s consent to this. The President Viktor Yanukovych has no time for a maneuver. Now the corridor has been defined and a decision has to be made. They [Cox and Kwasniewski. – Author] need the result by October 15, that’s why they play all-or-nothing game and try to accelerate the process of finding a solution to the problem in such a way. That’s why it is still too early to speak about the final solution.”
“There are two necessary conditions: the person must apply in person and the person must have served at least half of the sentence,” Larysa Skoryk, member of the Commission under the President of Ukraine in Matters of Clemency, commented to radiosvoboda.org. “We have granted pardon to many people, and in all cases with these conditions fulfilled. Who is Kwasniewski for Tymoshenko, and who is she for him? A close relative?”
The voice of victims of crimes committed during Kuchma’s presidency have not been represented practically anywhere. It is amazing, but there was a series of high-profile applications made over the past year, in particular, the recent ones related to the 13th anniversary of the disappearance and murder of journalist Heorhii Gongadze, which also have not been spread. For example, quite recently the public figure and the victim in the Gongadze case Oleksii Podolsky wanted to open a blog, but never received a response. It’s quite shocking.
Yeliashkevych is not just a politician with a long biography, but also a man, who suffered during the ruling of the second president of Ukraine. Yeliashkevych’s positions seems socially significant to us. Given the fact that he is never invited to participate in TV programs and is not given an opportunity to voice his position in other mass media, we feel a responsibility to give him the opportunity to speak about important social issues. Readers will be able to draw their own conclusions and to consider the arguments he makes.
“THE U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION IS WAITING FOR AN ANSWER FROM VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH”
The public figure Oleksii Podolsky said in the TVi channel’s program “Special Opinion” that “the US Congress Helsinki Commission has sent a letter to President Viktor Yanukovych about the high-profile cases of Yeliashkevych, Podolsky, and Gongadze.” What do you know about this mysterious letter?
“There is no mystery here. On May 8 this year Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leonid Kozhara, spoke on the presidency of Ukraine in OSCE at the US Helsinki Commission’s hearings in Washington. Congressman Steve Cohen, member of this commission, inquired, in particular, about the situation with high-profile cases in Ukraine. In reply, Minister Kozhara publicly promised to furnish the Helsinki Commission exhaustive information on the criminal cases about the attempt on my life, the kidnapping of Podolsky, and the murder of Gongadze. What is the result? Firstly, Kozhara looked unconvincing at the session, when he was answering questions about these cases, and, secondly, he has not furnished the promised information.
“The letter to President Yanukovych is the reaction of Congressman Cohen and the Helsinki Commission as a whole to Minister Kozhara’s flawed actions.”
Why has the Helsinki Commission, which paid no serious attention to the abovementioned high-profile cases before, suddenly evinced profound interest in this matter now?
“Now that Leonid Kuchma’s side is trying to hide how he managed to escape legal action over his role in the destinies of Yeliashkevych, Podolsky, and Gongadze, this triggers a predictable reaction on the part of politicians and civil society representatives in the countries that are not indifferent about the destiny of Ukraine. As an authorized representative of the US Helsinki Commission, Congressman Cohen is trying to help achieve progress in the investigation of high-profile crimes in Ukraine. He is an experienced lawyer who can see that there will be considerable progress in these cases.”
The US congressman says in his letter that it would be a good idea if Yanukovych met you to speed up investigating the Yeliashkevych case. What do you think about the probability of a meeting line this?
“I understand that the president has very important things to do now, on the eve of the Vilnius Summit, but I am ready to meet him. I am also ready to meet other officials who are authorized to make decisions in this field. In the years-long history of juridical ‘lawlessness’ with respect to my case, resolutions of European organizations and the Verkhovna Rada have always been flouted, as is now the US Helsinki Commission’s appeal. I have some realistic proposals about how to speed up investigating high-profile cases. I am not interested in Ukraine, as a state, incurring reputation losses as a result of inevitable legal actions outside this country (if, of course, these problems continue to be ignored).”
Who can Cohen cooperate with in Ukraine?
“The congressman showed me an invitation to visit this country from the Ukrainian ambassador to the US and said he would come to Ukraine with pleasure. He wants to tackle on the spot the questions he raised at the Washington hearings. In his address to Yanukovych, Cohen says he is eager to meet the Ukrainian president and discuss these and other important problems. If Ukraine takes effective steps to investigate high-profile crimes and identify the masterminds, the congressman will be also ready to establish close contact with Renat Kuzmin, First Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine. No matter what attitude one may be taking to him, we must admit that nobody in Ukraine but he has ever tried to assess in legal terms the role of Leonid Kuchma in the high-profile crimes against me, Podolsky, and Gongadze. Steve Cohen pointed out that he knew very much about Kuzmin and all the discussions connected with his name. Incidentally, Cohen confirmed, speaking with me, that he would meet Podolsky in the United States [Podolsky had also said this before. – Ed.].”
What is the latest news from the “battlefield”?
“Yanukovych was to receive the official translation of the text as long ago as August 1 this year, when the letter was sent. If the president has not received Cohen’s address for some reason, I do not rule out that this may provoke some disciplinary actions in the Presidential Administration.
“It is difficult for me even to imagine that somebody may have had the temerity not to inform Yanukovych of such an important letter from a Helsinki Commission member. For the US is waiting for our president’s answer.”
“SOMETHING IS BREWING AT THE PGO…”
Renat Kuzmin, First Deputy Prosecutor General, recently said to news24.ua: “As part of the investigation [of the Gongadze murder. – Ed.], we are also carrying out the necessary investigative actions in the criminal cases of violence against journalist Oleksii Podolsky and former MP Oleksandr Yeliashkevych.” Do you know about any progress in these cases?
“Renat Kuzmin is really actively engaged in investigating Podolsky’s and my cases. I will say frankly that no prosecutors have looked into our cases as deeply and professionally as he is doing. This so far is all that I can say. But I would like to draw your attention to what is going on at the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) today. After Kuzmin, who is also member of the High Council of Justice, had begun to carefully study the case of an attempt on my life, falsified by Judge Melnyk, I arrived at the PGO on his invitation. Then the Prosecutor General, Viktor Pshonka, suddenly came into the office room of his first deputy. He twice asked me categorically to leave the room, which I had to do.
“I can assume that my appearance at the PGO was a detonator of sorts in the conflict between the Prosecutor General and his deputy, a point that has long been in the highlight of press reports. What struck me was a strange, even nervous, behavior of the Prosecutor General. The media claim that the president summoned both of them on Wednesday. Something must be brewing. Maybe, Kuchma again complained about Kuzmin to President Yanukovych at the Yalta summit. Or, maybe, Kwasniewski expressed some dissatisfaction about the Prosecutor General’s Office at Kuchma’s request. For he and Cox will soon be reporting to Europe about the Tymoshenko case, a thing on which the Vilnius Summit result may depend. Or, maybe, reconciliation between Kuchma and Lutsenko was another step to whitewash Kuchma? I think we will know soon.”
The information space is now full of allegations that Heorhii Gongadze is alive. Among those who say this in public are Volodymyr Lytvyn and Oleksii Pukach’s lawyers, while Lesia Gongadze claims that she received a letter from her son. Does this shock you?
“A mother always wants to believe that her dead son is still living, and those who try to dodge responsibility for organizing the murder of Heorhii Gongadze are meanly, cynically, and terribly taking advantage of this. It is a crime, not just a mockery. I would like to publicly request the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Security Service to find those who ordered and perpetrated the offense of writing false letters on behalf of Gongadze. Taking into account that the Kuchma family have been intensively falsifying, for many years on end, the criminal cases of Yeliashkevych, Podolsky, and Gongadze, expert opinions and evidence, financing the discrediting of witnesses and the aggrieved parties, and the fact that the letter was allegedly sent from Dnipropetrovsk oblast, the conclusion about who stands behind this hoax is self-evident. Is it not the same team that falsified Pukach’s letters from Israel to divert investigators from searching for Pukach?
“I advise everybody to read attentively the full text of the Pukach trial sentence that was published in the media (www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2013/01/31/6982622/view_print). To tell the truth, it is difficult to do so unless you take a tranquilizer. The text includes the minutest details of cruel violence against Gongadze and Podolsky – from the intention to the attempt to cover the traces of the crime.”
“THE UKRAINIAN GUESTS KNOW ALL THIS VERY WELL, BUT…”
The recent, 10th, Yalta forum drew major public attention inside and outside Ukraine. There are pluses and minuses in this. Ukraine has very few outlets from which one can speak about important international affairs, but the problem lies in undisguised personal interest. In the same interview with TVi, Podolsky advised to shun the events organized by Kuchma’s son-in-law. Why did nobody heed his reasoning?
“As for foreign guests, far from all of them know the details of how the Kuchma family formed its financial assets and the role of the ex-president in the life stories of Yeliashkevych and Gongadze. Many do not still know who Oleksii Podolsky is, let alone the fact that he is an aggrieved party in the Gongadze case. They attend these forums in a sincere attempt to help Ukraine in her European aspirations. But some of the foreign guests have long and deliberately been working in an original and expensive pool that tries to whitewash the reputation of Kuchma.
“Today, by ably using the assets of the latter, they successfully impose an information blockade on Podolsky’s initiatives. But their potential is not boundless.
“The Ukrainian guests know all this very well. But they come over. Naturally, the state of affairs in our politics is such that, by all accounts, nobody is prepared to seriously accept the calls for moral responsibility. This applies, first of all, to the opposition. But I am sure there will be political consequences of this unscrupulousness by all means. My forecast is that, in spite of a difficult economic situation and political conflicts, the opposition will have no earthly chances to defeat Yanukovych in the 2015 presidential elections. The blame for this will lie with the opposition itself which I think firmly stepped on the Kuchma family’s commercial footing long ago.
“But a special success of this year was the presence of Gongadze’s comrade-in-arms Olena Prytula and the leader of the ‘Ukraine without Kuchma’ campaign, Yurii Lutsenko, at the summit.
“The two figures thus symbolized Kuchma’s ‘public apology and innocence.’ The final scene of this scenario was the much-hyped handshake between Lutsenko and Kuchma. Then they even had a friendly chat, which was photographed by a Korrespondent (gallery.korrespondent.net), rather than an Ukrainska Pravda, journalist. Lutsenko also said publicly that Kuchma had been a better and stronger president than Yushchenko and Yanukovych.”
Did the public reconciliation of Lutsenko and Kuchma, the photo of which exploded the Internet, sting you so much?
“The handshake with Kuchma is the logical conclusion of a series of cynical operations with high-profile cases, parliamentary seats, and political views. Nobody has ever done more to discredit the anti-Kuchmaites. All the more so that Lutsenko carved out his political career on the wave of a struggle against Kuchmism. Nobody had ever known him well before that struggle. In the civilized countries, politicians immediately cut short their political career in such cases.”
“IS UKRAINSKA PRAVDA’S ATTITUDE TO PODOLSKY NOT THE GREATEST DISCREDIT?”
What do you think about media coverage of high-profile cases?
“There are certain indicators here. Symptomatically, the US Helsinki Commission hearings on May 8 remained in fact unnoticed in Ukraine. Also telling is the way the events around the former General Pukach trial were covered. I will remind you that the absolute majority of journalists remained indifferent to the action of Podolsky who had to walk out of and never come back to the courtroom in protest. This happened because the Pukach trial was deliberately classified as secret, as it could otherwise publicly reveal the role of Kuchma, Lytvyn, Derkach, Kravchenko, and other influential participants of those horrible events, and the judge categorically rejected the aggrieved party’s request to summon Kuchma and Lytvyn to the courtroom and investigate materials about the killing of Kravchenko.
“I know that our journalists have a lot of other points to highlight, but if they fail to solve these problems and show solidarity, it will be difficult to speak about professional safety in the future. The tragic events connected with Heorhii Gongadze became sort of a guarantee of journalistic safety for as certain period of time. But if those who ordered the abovementioned high-profile crimes (and instructions came from this country’s topmost office room) do not have their misdeeds duly appraised, journalism may become a very dangerous profession in Ukraine.”
Den recently quoted Oleksii Podolsky as saying on his LiveJournal page that Ukrainska Pravda had denied him, a public figure and the aggrieved party in the Gongadze case, the right to launch a blog (No. 52, September 10, 2013). What do you think of this?
“I am shocked by the very fact that Ukrainska Pravda’s talented journalists are unaware of the impact of this denial. I am convinced that the Ukrainska Pravda team has a moral obligation to Oleksii Podolsky, not to mention that the journalists of this online publication cannot possibly resort to double standards – on the one hand, to demand that politicians respond to their queries and call them for sincerity, and, on the other hand, to avoid at least answering the letters of citizen Podolsky.
“But they know only too well that he is not just a citizen of this country but a person whose life story should rouse our society and, first of all, journalists. For it is the impunity of those who committed crimes against Podolsky and me (although we immediately said who the organizers were) that led later to the death of Heorhii Gongadze, the founder of Ukrainska Pravda. I hate to believe that this behavior of Ukrainska Pravda journalists is the result of Viktor Pinchuk’s cash reward.
“Ukrainska Pravda editors are saying there are attempts to discredit their publication. Even the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt has come out in defense of it. But is the publication editors’ attitude to Podolsky, unwillingness to publish the US Helsinki Commission’s information, and the demonstrative appearance of Ukrainska Pravda chief editor Prytula as a guest at the Kuchma family’s Yalta forum, not the greatest discredit?”
“NO MATTER WHAT MOTIVATES YANUKOVYCH, HE STANDS A REAL CHANCE TO BE CALLED EURO-INTEGRATOR AND ONE WHO SAVED THE WORLD FROM ‘KUCHMA’S VIRUS’”
President Viktor Yanukovych, who shunned the Davos luncheon earlier this year, was also present at the Yalta summit as a guest. What do you think motivated the head of state to take part at YES now?
“In my view, the Kuchma family has managed at this stage to outplay Yanukovych’s team. The point is that pressuring Yanukovych with the Tymoshenko problem is part of the former president’s scenario. It is important to the Kuchma family that Western politicians should be dissatisfied with Yanukovych no matter whether or not the Associated Agreement is signed in Vilnius. And Yanukovych felt the pressure of this scenario only too well in Yalta. The YES hearings could not even theoretically help solve the difficult problem of ex-premier Tymoshenko. It is impossible to resolve this ticklish problem in public terms, which Aleksander Kwasniewski is very well aware of.”
Why does Kuchma need Tymoshenko?
“Indeed, the Yalta forum organizers’ goal was to drive Yanukovych into a blind corner and make him quarrel with foreign politicians. And Kuchma need Tymoshenko as just an instrument of pressure on Yanukovych. Incidentally, I am not sure that Tymoshenko herself and, moreover, her team is aware of this.
“As for the previous question, Yanukovych could have met Dalia Grybauskaite or Stefan Fuele at an event organized by the government or a neutral organization. In that case there would have been constructive negotiations. But representatives of the current leadership had in fact to play according to other people’s scenario. For Europe-oriented aspirations to achieve more effective results, the president should remove the ‘Kuchma family factor’ from his negotiations with European, American, and other politicians and experts.
“The result the Kuchma family achieved at the Yalta summit is their Pyrrhic victory. If President Yanukovych decides to bring the investigation of Kuchma’s high-profile crimes to a logical end, he will get, odd as it may sound, moral advantage over his opponents. And no matter what motivates him, he stands a real chance to be called not only Euro-integrator, but one who saved the world from ‘Kuchma’s virus.’”
What will you do if the investigation of Kuchma’s role in the abovementioned cases is put on hold again?
“Firstly, whatever course the events may take, we are waiting for a response to our appeal in the Pukach case. Secondly, we are waiting for an answer from the Higher Council of Justice regarding Judge Melnyk. Concurrently, I am helping Podolsky form a legal team in the US. We will be able to announce our concrete steps in a month or so. If Ukraine fails to embark on the road of getting rid of Kuchma’s legacy, all these processes will be conducted outside this country. But I will be doing my level best to use Ukrainian juridical mechanisms, for Ukraine itself needs this. I do not want our country to have a tarnished reputation. I think we have every chance of self-purification.”