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08KYIV419, UKRAINE: VERDICT AND SENTENCING IN GONGADZE CASE

February 22, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KYIV419 2008-02-22 13:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0018
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #0419/01 0531319
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221319Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5042
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 000419 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2016 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINR SOCI SCUL UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: VERDICT AND SENTENCING IN GONGADZE CASE 
EXPECTED IN MARCH 
 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
 (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Lawyer Valentyna Telychenko, who represents 
the wife of slain journalist Georgiy Gongadze, told us that 
she expected a verdict and sentencing for the three men 
accused of killing Gongadze by early March; according to 
press reports, March 3 could be the final day of the trial. 
The two-year old trial has encountered a series of delays 
since July 2007.  As in previous meetings, Telychenko 
expressed disappointment that senior government officials 
from the Kuchma Era have not been held accountable for 
planning the killing and that key suspect General Pukach 
remains at large.  She criticized President Yushchenko's 
recent decision to honor former Prosecutor General Oleksandr 
Potebenko and Judge Mariya Pryndyuk, both of whom have been 
criticized for their roles in the investigation. 
 
2.  (C) Comment:  The news that a verdict and sentencing of 
the three defendants on trial may be coming in March is 
encouraging, but we agree that the lack of progress in the 
broader investigation is disappointing.  Claims that the 
political will to seriously investigate the case and 
prosecute those responsible for planning the murder seem 
buttressed by the several years of delays encountered in the 
investigation.  Telychenko felt that the Ukrainian public and 
Western governments and NGOs were losing interest.  We 
reassured her that we have not forgotten and will continue to 
follow developments.  End of Summary and Comment. 
 
Hearings Delayed in 2007, Sentencing as early as March 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
3.  (U) The pace of court hearings slowed in the last six 
months of 2007 in the trial of three policemen accused of 
carrying out the 2000 murder of prominent journalist Georgiy 
Gongadze.  The delays of the past year occurred because of 
court-ordered psychological evaluations of the defendants. 
On December 27, 2007, the Kyiv Court of Appeals found all 
three defendants, Mykola Protasov, Valeriy Kostenko and 
Oleksandr Popovych, able to stand trial.  In January 2008, a 
panel of judges from the Kyiv Court of Appeals brought 
additional charges against the defendants for damaging the 
image of the state and law enforcement bodies.  On February 
5, the prosecutors asked for prison sentences of 12-14 
years for the defendants; the whereabouts of the primary 
suspect, General Olixiy Pukach, remained unknown. 
 
4. (C) During court debates on February 5, the prosecutors 
had requested the following prison sentences for the 
defendants for premeditated murder and abuse of power: 14 
years for Protasov, 13 for Popovych and 12 for Kostenko.  Per 
lawyer Valentyna Telychenko, defendant Kostenko pleaded 
guilty to all the charges brought against him, while the 
other two recanted their earlier guilty pleas, denying that 
the murder was premeditated.  Lawyer Telychenko told Emboffs 
that she will ask that Protasov receive the highest possible 
sentence of 14 years and to lessen the sentences for Kotsenko 
to eight years for his cooperation throughout the trial and 
Popovych to 10 years.   She said she expected the verdict and 
sentences to come as soon as March.  According to the press, 
the court is expected to reconvene on March 3, hear the final 
statements from the defendants and then retire to the 
deliberation room in order to render a verdict. 
 
5.  (C) Telychenko, who represents Gongadze's widow 
Myroslava, expressed doubts to Emboffs that the public will 
be satisfied with the results of the trial because the 
investigation on Pukach and other senior officials, who may 
have been involved, has gone nowhere.  In a February 13 
meeting, she criticized Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola 
Holomsha, who has overall responsibility for the case, for 
his lack of professionalism and for stalling the 
investigation.  She explained that Holomsha blamed delays in 
the investigation on the lack of assistance from 
international organizations and foreign governments to 
provide expert analysis of the recordings made by former 
Major Melnychenko.  Telychenko claimed that Holomsha, in his 
defense, often referred to letters from the Prosecutor 
General to the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe 
and the USG, which were intentionally vaguely worded requests 
to make it nearly impossible to provide concrete assistance. 
 However, Holomsha continued to use this as an excuse for the 
lack of progress in the investigation, according to 
Telychenko. 
 
6.  (C) Telychenko said that the only way to move ahead with 
the investigation of who masterminded the killing was to 
arrest Melnychenko and take him to court where a thorough 
reconstruction of events and analysis of his recordings could 
be done.  She said that, at a minimum, making the recordings 
 
were illegal and thus grounds for taking him to trial.  She 
said that she does not believe any hearings would directly 
implicate former President Ku
chma in Gongadze's murder, but 
rather that he had created a climate of impunity, which 
allowed this and other high profile crimes to be committed by 
law enforcement agencies during his presidency.  As in 
previous meetings, she spoke at some length about former Rada 
Speaker Moroz and his possible knowledge of who ordered 
Gongadze's murder.  She discounted February 7 reports in the 
Party of Regions-controlled newspaper  Segodnya, alleging 
that that the so-called "Werewolves"  - a gang of rogue MOI 
officers currently on trial for high profile killings and 
kidnappings during the Kuchma presidency - had been involved 
in Gongadze's killing and had reburied his body.  She said 
this story was pure speculation and the source of the 
information was not identified in the report. 
 
Groups Criticize President for Awarding Judge and former PG 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
7.  (U) On December 18, 2007, the International Federation of 
Journalists, the National Union of Journalists of the UK and 
Ireland, the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), the 
Gongadze Foundation, and the Independent Media Union sent a 
letter to the President criticizing him for giving an award 
to judge of the Kyiv Court of Appeals Mariya Pryndyuk, whose 
earlier decision in 2004 allowed the main suspect Pukach to 
flee the country and evade justice. As of now, the 
President,s Secretariat left unanswered an information query 
by IMI concerning grounds for giving the award. 
 
8.  (U) On September 12, 2007, the same organizations 
publicly condemned senior government officials of Ukraine for 
"sabotage" in the investigation and criticized the President 
for having awarded in 2007 the Yaroslav the Wise Order to 
former Prosecutor General Oleksandr Potebenko, who they claim 
failed to conduct a thorough investigation of the case.  In 
the letter, they noted that the investigation, which 
developed most rapidly in 2005, slowed down in 2007 in part 
due to lack of political will at all government levels. They 
also attributed the slowdown in the investigation to 
personnel changes in the investigating team in late 2006, and 
a lack of cooperation from Melnychenko, who refused to 
provide both  the recordings and recording devices for 
examination. 
 
9. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

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