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06KIEV461, UKRAINE: GONGADZE CASE AND ELECTION POLITICS

February 2, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV461 2006-02-02 13:55 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KIEV 000461 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2016 
TAGS: PHUM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: GONGADZE CASE AND ELECTION POLITICS 

REF: A. KIEV 224 
     B. 05 KIEV 4491 

Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

Summary 
------- 

1. (C) Politicians and the judge associated with the Gongadze 
case, wielding both implied carrots and sticks, have sought 
the public silence of Myroslava Gongadze -- widow of slain 
journalist Heorhiy Gongadze -- in the run-up to parliamentary 
elections in March, according to Myroslava's lawyer Valentyna 
Telychenko.  Telychenko told us that politician Yuriy Boyko, 
who sought a place on Rada Speaker Lytvyn's electoral list, 
had suggested to her through intermediaries that Myroslava 
Gongadze could enrich herself in the run-up to the election 
by keeping her mouth shut.  Telychenko implied that 
politicians had "encouraged" Judge Hryhoryeva's go-slow 
strategy; with Lytvyn's bloc battling to make it over the 
3-percent threshold for parliamentary representation, public 
reminders of Lytvyn's alleged instigating role in Heorhiy 
Gongadze's 2000 murder and subsequent decapitation during the 
last weeks of this spring's campaign could hurt his chances. 
Other prominent politicians, including Socialist Party leader 
Moroz (until recently a fervent backer of Gongadze case 
prosecution), Justice Minister Holovaty and former Prosecutor 
General Piskun, would also benefit if Myroslava Gongadze kept 
a low profile during the campaign.  The chief judge in the 
Gongadze trial, Iryna Hryhoryeva, warned Telychenko January 
30 that she feared for Telychenko's personal safety, a 
message which Telychenko and Gongadze felt was aimed at 
Myroslava as well.  Hryhoryeva also made clear she planned to 
drag out the trial of three policemen accused of murdering 
Heorhiy Gongadze with frequent breaks so that any 
"sensational" testimony from Myroslava or other witnesses 
would not occur until after the election.  End summary. 

Threats and Bribes for Gongadze Attorney... 
------------------------------------------- 

2. (SBU) Meeting with PolOffs January 31, attorney Valentyna 
Telychenko provided disturbing new allegations about the 
ongoing trial of three former police officers accused of 
taking part in the 2000 murder and subsequent corporal 
mutilation of prominent Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze 
(refs A-B).  Telychenko represents Gongadze's widow, 
Myroslava, in the court proceedings, which resumed February 1 
in Kiev. 

3. (C) Telychenko told us that Iryna Hryhoryeva, the chief 
judge in the trial, cryptically warned her January 30 that: 
"I am uneasy about your safety," offering no other details, 
but repeating the phrase another three times during the 
conversation.  Telychenko took the vague warning as an 
implicit threat, not so much physical but psychological, 
aimed also at shaking Myroslava Gongadze, who resides in the 
U.S. as a Voice of America reporter but will return to 
Ukraine to testify in the trial. 

4. (C) The judge's strange warning came in the wake of 
several approaches by intermediaries of Ukrainian Republican 
Party leader (and ex-NaftoHaz Chairman) Yuriy Boyko to buy 
Myroslava's silence.  Boyko's intermediaries approached 
Telychenko twice, first in December after the trial's 
preliminary hearing, and again recently in late January, 
suggesting that "if you were smart enough, you could make big 
money in this period," and adding that were Myroslava to 
avoid mention of Rada Speaker Lytvyn and Ukrainska Pravda 
editor Olena Prytula, "it would be good for both of you." 
(Note:  Prytula was Heorhiy Gongadze's lover at the time of 
the murder; he was leaving her apartment when abducted by the 
police team; she previously had been Lytvyn's protege and 
rumored lover.)  At the time of the first approach in 
December, Boyko was attempting to gain entry to Lytvyn's 
electoral list and could have been attempting to curry favor 
with Lytvyn; the most recent approach came despite Boyko 
having joined the SPDU(o) in Kravchuk/Medvedchuk-led Ne Tak! 
bloc in the interim, having failed to join Lytvyn. 

5. (C) Telychenko noted that the earliest implied threat to 
Myroslava had come in September, when then-General Prosecutor 
Piskun made a sick joke during a backstage confrontation 
after a live TV debate on Fifth Channel that he could 
"slaughter her" (ref A).  In mid-January, a long-time 
working-level contact in the General Prosecutor's Office 
(GPO) suggested to Telychenko that Myroslava "just stop 
mentioning Piskun" in her public comments because he was 
"vindictive"; it was unclear whether this was meant as 
friendly advice or another warning.  In the face of these 
multiple "suggestions," Telychenko noted that she might 
request that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) protect 
Myroslava during her next visit to Ukraine, in the same way 
the SBU protected recording Major Melnychenko during his 
recent visit to Ukraine. 

...As the Election Campaign Heats Up 
------------------------------------ 
6. (C) Telychenko asserted that Myroslava Gongadze's 
testimony and usual media coverage during her visits to 
Ukraine posed a threat to Lytvyn's electoral campaign just as 
polls showed Lytvyn's bloc on the Rada 3-percent threshold 
bubble; the Speaker was fighting for every vote he could get. 

7. (C) Lytvyn was not the only prominent Ukrainian politician 
hoping that Myroslava would remain silent during the 
campaign,
Telychenko added.  Socialist Party leader Oleksandr 
Moroz, until recently an avid proponent of prosecuting the 
Gongadze case, was reportedly "very unhappy" about the 
prospect of being called as a witness in the trial; Prytula 
was prepared to testify that Moroz had warned her and Heorhiy 
Gongadze of "threats to their lives" the month before 
Gongadze's disappearance and death.  Telychenko explained 
that Moroz may have learned of the plot to kill the 
muckraking journalist via the infamous Melnychenko recordings 
(ref B), and would have to explain in court what he knows 
about the bugging of former President Kuchma's office and why 
he did not do more to protect Gongadze.  Justice Minister 
Holovaty faced similar scrutiny over what he knew prior to 
the murder (ref B).  Telychenko asserted that the Socialist 
Party had paid Mykola Melnychenko to "stay home and be quiet" 
during the parliamentary campaign, adding that the former 
presidential bodyguard recently reported health problems were 
directly related to his heavy drinking.  Former Prosecutor 
General Piskun, on Party of Regions' Rada list and seeking to 
be reinstated as Prosecutor General, also had an interest in 
Myroslava's silence during the campaign, Telychenko said. 

Trial slowdown: No Serious Testimony Before the Elections 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

8. (C) Assessing the general state of the trial, Telychenko 
asserted that it was clear that Judge Hryhoryeva had been 
paid to stall the proceedings and close some testimony to 
outside observers; there would be no "blockbuster" testimony 
before election day, whether from Myroslava Gongadze, 
Prytula, or other key witnesses.  When Telychenko tried to 
arrange with Hryhoryeva a window in mid-February for 
Myroslava to give her testimony, Hryhoryeva said that 
defense-related testimony would last through March, given a 
court schedule of no more than 2-3 short sessions per week. 
The alleged excuse was that the other judge hearing the case 
had a second "complex case" to manage.  Hryhoryeva had also 
consistently urged Telychenko to "spend more time preparing 
and re-reading case documents."  Hryhoryeva had also ruled 
that when police officers were to testify, the court session 
would be closed.  No journalists would be permitted to 
attend, and the testimony would be classified as "state 
secrets"; attorneys like Telychenko would be able to attend 

SIPDIS 
only after signing nondisclosure agreements. 

9. (C) Telychenko said the go-slow strategy and difficult 
courtroom conditions has already sapped media interest in the 
trial.  When the trial resumed January 23, all three 
defendents admitted their guilt in the murder, though two 
claimed the murder had not been premeditated.  This essential 
fact was not picked up in any media accounts of the trial, 
Telychenko lamented. 

Comment 
------- 

10. (C) Whatever the accuracy of Telychenko's unverified 
allegations and interpretations, clearly there is much going 
on behind the scenes, with some variously motivated actors 
wishing to see the case prosecuted openly, expeditiously and 
fully and others not.  Beyond dispute is the lament that, 
while significant progress has been achieved under the 
Yushchenko government, justice in the most prominent 
individual human rights case since Ukrainian independence 
remains elusive. 

11. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website at: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
HERBST

 

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