The news about the sentencing of the former general Oleksii Pukach for life imprisonment for the crime of beating journalist Oleksii Podolsky and murder of Heorhii Gongadze stirred up the society and mass media. Journalistic circles have been awaken to some extent, which was in a kind of hibernation state regarding this case. There appeared numerous interviews, comments, statements, and TV programs on this topic. We will here describe the most vivid and revealing moments.
The first president Leonid Kravchuk considers the fact, that Leonid Kuchma and Volodymyr Lytvyn were not interrogated with regard to the case, to be an example of selective justice. “I personally think that it’s important that the court interrogates everyone. And I don’t see any problem for Lytvyn and Kuchma to come to the court hearings. If the judge didn’t summon them, he had to be replaced,” said Kravchuk in the studio of the Fifth Channel on February 2. Commenting the statement of the TV host about the fact that the judge, indeed, was not replaced, Kravchuk said: “It’s bad. When we are accused of selective appliance of justice, this is one of the examples of such actions.”
Serhii Leshchenko, journalist of Ukrainska Pravda, in his blog drew attention to a very sensitive topic: it turns out that Ukraine is such a rich country that it can finance… the world leaders. “Events organized by Viktor Pinchuk are regularly attended by the retired politicians like Bill Clinton or Tony Blair received an explanation. Pinchuk Foundation announced the size of donations it made to the organizations of the former big league politicians. It turned out that only in 2011 the Clinton Global Initiative received 1,100,000 dollars from Pinchuk. Blair Foundation received 500,000 from him. The annual Israeli Presidential Conference under the auspices of President Shimon Peres got 375,000 dollars and another 20,000 went to the Peres Center for Peace,” wrote the journalist.
“On the one hand, transparency is always a good thing. Perhaps, even if this transparency will cost Pinchuk dearly,” Leshchenko continues. “On the other hand, what motivates these donations? Saving his reputation after years of his father-in-law’s rule, the man whom a killer general invited to join him in his prison cell in a nationally circulated statement. This is the man Pinchuk loves so much that the TV channels he controls ‘forgot’ to mention to their audience the only words Pukach said in three years after his arrest.”
“Savik Shuster’s team has contacted me several times. I agreed to participate in the program. The connection was not perfect, but we did set it up. Despite the fact that I was online for an entire hour, they never gave me the floor. Nor was Valentyna Telychenko invited to participate. She is the only person from the entire pool of discussants who can speak about the ‘Gongandze case’ professionally. It was a torture to listen to the idiotic things some participants had to say in the studio. I believe that the Shuster studio used me as bait for the program, and this is called journalist manipulation,” Myroslava Gongadze wrote on her Facebook page.
Former State Guard Major Mykola Melnychenko, one of the key witnesses in the ‘Gongadze case,’ also made a statement. He claims that Kuchma tried to buy the original recording which mentions Gongadze from him for two million dollars. “If Kuchma believes that he has nothing to do with the murder of journalist Heorhii Gongadze, why did he offer me two million dollars for the original tapes? To avoid criminal liability for a crime,” Melnychenko is quoted as saying by the Polish Rzeczpospolita newspaper. According to Melnychenko, his presence in Ukraine “has always been an irritant to Kuchma.” In particular, he said that he had been approached by a “person from Pinchuk” who offered him 10 million dollars to “simply leave – because Leonid Kuchma was very nervous.”
It would seem that Kuchma would have to react quickly to such criticism and put all questions that have arisen to rest. Now, there are a number of them after Pukach’s verdict has been reviewed. Of course, they are not addressed directly to Kuchma – these are rather questions that are up in the air. Here are some of them:
1 Why didn’t the court study the motives of the crime in the proceedings against Pukach? Why does it all stop at the late former Interior Minister Kravchenko?
2 Why has there been no reaction or interpretation given to the following facts: Pukach has testified, among other things, that after he received an order from Kravchenko to kill Gongadze, Kravchenko added that he was “speaking on behalf of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.” Pukach also said after the verdict has been announced: “I agree with it if Kuchma and Lytvyn sit next to me in this cage.” In a short comment he gave to journalists after the court session, he added: “Ask Lytvyn and Kuchma about the motives.”
3 Why has there been no legal assessment given to Kravchenko’s so-called suicide (Podolsky, a victim, calls it a murder) which would lead the investigation to those who ordered the crimes against Podolsky and Gongadze to be committed?
4 How can it be that the court proceedings against Pukach were presided over by Judge Andrii Melnyk who once falsified a case of MP Yeliashkevych who had become a victim of at attempt on his life?
5 What should be deduced from the fact that Pukach was promoted to general major after Podolsky was beaten up and to lieutenant general after the murder of Gongadze, given that decrees on such promotions are signed exclusively by the president?
6 Why weren’t ex-President Leonid Kuchma and the then Chief of Presidential Administration (now MP) Volodymyr Lytvyn heard in court in the case despite victim Podolsky’s insistence?
This list can be continued. And we will continue it.
So what was the reaction of Kuchma and his team? Vadym Dolhanov, head of the information service of Kuchma’s Ukraina charitable foundation, spoke the same day, saying: “Why should Kuchma react? And who is Pukach?” He also added that “Kuchma is interested in having this case investigated as soon and as transparently as possible and in having speculations surrounding him stopped.” Concurrently, Kuchma’s attorneys used every opportunity to declare that their client had nothing to do with the “Gongadze case.” Finally, Kuchma himself spoke – but on something else. In an interview for the Russia TV channel, ex-president said: “I simply feel sorry for her [Tymoshenko. – Author]. First, she is charming and nice as a woman. It seems that a desire to rule led to a situation in which she has now found herself. She is being accused of all sins, including the murder of Shcherban. You know, there is no love lost between us… You can say whatever you want, but we have not grounds for launching a criminal case against Tymoshenko.”
One question that Kuchma was not asked was whether it was his own decision to avoid talking about the Gongadze case.
So far it stands clear that Kuchma has given an interview which has raised a number of new questions, in particular to former Prosecutor General Sviatoslav Piskun.