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08KYIV1226, UKRAINE: FAMILY OF SLAIN JOURNALIST IHOR

June 23, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KYIV1226 2008-06-23 15:13 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0015
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #1226/01 1751513
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231513Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5893
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 001226 
 
SIPDIS 
 
MOSCOW FOR REFUGEE COORDINATOR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2016 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREF UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE:  FAMILY OF SLAIN JOURNALIST IHOR 
ALEKSANDROV CLAIMS PERSECUTION 
 
REF: A. 03 STATE 326248 
     B. 07 STATE 54846 
 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  The son of journalist Ihor Aleksandrov, 
killed in 2001 for his critical reporting on officials in 
Donetsk Oblast, told EmbOffs that he and his family continue 
to seek justice in his father's case and that he now fears 
for his and his family's safety.  Both the lawyer of 
Mryoslava Gongadze, wife of another slain Ukrainian 
journalist, and the director of a local media watchdog group 
agreed that the Aleksandrov family may face risks from 
Donetsk Oblast figures, but were not able verify if 
Aleksandrov's specific claims of persecution were true. 
Aleksandrov told Emboff that there was no place in Ukraine 
where he and his family can be safe and requested asylum. 
Post has reviewed his claim and determined that the family 
does not meet the threshold to qualify for refugee status for 
the reasons given in paragraphs 11-13.  At his request, Post 
promised to keep the meeting confidential.  End summary. 
 
Gongadze's Widow advises Aleksandrov to Contact Embassy 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
2.  (C) Post was recently contacted by Valentyna Telychenko, 
the attorney for Myroslava Gongadze, the widow of well-known 
journalist Georgiy Gongadze, who was murdered in 2000. 
Telychenko relayed Gongadze's request that Post meet with 
Aleksey Aleksandrov, son of Ihor Aleksandrov, an 
investigative journalist slain in Donetsk in 2001.  During 
two separate meetings on May 16 and June 4, Aleksandrov told 
Emboff about persecution and threats by local authorities 
because of his family's continuing efforts to bring all those 
responsible for killing his father to justice. 
 
Journalist's Killing Important 2001 Human Rights Case 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
3.  (U) Journalist Ihor Aleksandrov, the director of a 
television station in Donetsk Oblast, was well known for his 
fearless reporting on the corruption of Donetsk-based 
politicians and local law enforcement.  His 2001 murder 
received high level attention and was mentioned in subsequent 
State Department Human Rights Reports.  In July 2006, the 
Luhansk Court of Appeals sentenced five people to between two 
and fifteen years for their involvement in the killing and 
awarded Aleksandrov's family $80,000 in compensation for 
moral damages.  The convictions were praised by human rights 
groups and mentioned in the State Department's 2006 Human 
Rights Report. 
 
Family Says Justice in Father's Case Unfulfilled 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
4.  (C) Aleksey Aleksandrov told Emboffs that the five men 
convicted in 2006 were thugs who carried out orders of senior 
Donetsk officials to silence his outspoken father.  He said 
that the initial investigation was flawed and that the 
subsequent lengthy court proceedings failed to fully 
investigate and reveal those who ordered the killing.  He 
explained that the convicted killers had no clear personal 
motives to kill his father and Aleksandrov believes that 
senior officials close to former Prime Minister Yanukovych at 
the Donetsk Oblast Prosecutors Office and Ministry of 
Interior ordered the killing.  Despite repeated appeals to 
the Prosecutor General's Office (PGO), Security Service of 
Ukraine (SBU), and the President to bring the instigators to 
justice, he and his family believe the GoU will not pursue a 
broader investigation nor enforce the court decision to award 
his family financial compensation.  He said he has lost all 
faith in the Government, noting that high level officials, 
such as Prosecutor General Medvedko, may have something to 
hide and will not allow the investigation to move ahead. 
 
Persecution Claim 
----------------- 
 
5.  (C) Aleksandrov told Emboffs that Donetsk law enforcement 
and PGO officials have made threats and told him and his 
family to keep "quiet" about the case.  He said that 
surveillance, cut phone lines, and disappearing mail had been 
a problem during publicized court proceedings.  They have 
taken their concerns to the Kyiv-based Institute for Mass 
Information (IMI), a media freedom NGO, and Reporters Without 
Borders but fear that making their case too high profile 
could lead to reprisals.  Aleksandrov said that both his 
family, and a journalist who recently wrote an article about 
their legal battle, experienced pressure from local officials 
 
in Donetsk after the article appeared in a local newspaper on 
May 16.  Aleksandrov concluded that there was no place in 
Ukraine where he and his family can be safe and requested 
political asylum. 
 
6.  (C) On June 4, Aleksandrov described several examples of 
harassment by authorities and anonymous threats beginning in 
the summer of 2007.  He said that the persecution increased 
after Ukraine's Supreme Court ruled to enforce a lower 
court's order to compensate his family for damages and after 
his mother made public statements and sent letter
s to a court 
and the PGO in Luhansk complaining about how the case was 
handled.  Aleksandrov said that he has received anonymous 
threatening phone calls on a monthly basis since mid-2007 - 
the most recent in June 2008 - warning that pursuing their 
case could be "costly" to the family.  He said that his 
neighbors, and later his own family, noticed suspicious 
strangers near their home or traveling on public 
transportation, who appeared to be following them. 
Aleksandrov complained that the local police did not respond 
to their complaints about the threats and apparent 
surveillance.  Although the family has not received written 
threats since 2003, recent threats have become more subtle 
according to Aleksandrov.  For example, he said that the 
family is called in on a quarterly basis by the SBU in 
Slavyansk, where they are questioned by officers in what he 
characterized as a threatening manner about their continued 
effort to investigate the senior Aleksandrov's murder and 
warned that the SBU knows where the Aleksandrovs work and 
live.  He said that his mother is currently living in Russia 
with friends because of fear for her safety, but that the 
rest of the family does not consider moving to Russia a 
viable option. 
 
Stifled Media Response/Legal Support 
------------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C) Aleksandrov claimed that mainstream local and 
national media refused to cover their story after the 2006 
convictions of the henchmen.  He said that local journalists 
were discouraged by powerful interests from carrying the 
story and claimed one outspoken journalist was threatened 
with the same fate as the senior Aleksandrov if he continued 
to investigate the case.  He complained that his family's 
lawyer had been discouraged by local police and colleagues 
from actively defending the family's interest beginning in 
the fall of 2007.  He noted that his lawyer had chastised him 
about meeting with Post, although Aleksandrov claimed he did 
not inform his lawyer of his meetings with Emboffs. 
 
Aleksandrov Says No Response from Government to Threats 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
8.  (C) Aleksandrov left several documents with Emboff 
including press articles, court papers, and letters from his 
mother to senior Ukrainian Government officials about the 
case.  In a 2007 letter to President Yushchenko, Lyudmila 
Aleksandrova, wife of the slain journalist, described the 
family's efforts to seek justice and appealed for help with 
the constant threatening phone calls and appearance of 
unknown persons at their home.  She complained of being 
called in constantly by the local  prosecutor's office and 
SBU for questioning and expressed fear of law enforcement 
agencies, which she believed could at any moment commit an 
act of violent retribution and explain it away as a common 
crime.  She wrote that the family remains a political "bomb" 
that can expose the real violence against Ukrainian 
journalists.  According to Aleksey Aleksandrov, there has 
been no response to this and a similar letter sent to the PGO 
last year. 
 
Myroslava Gongadze's Lawyer Believes Fears Justified 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
9.  (C)  Valentyna Telychenko, Myroslava Gongadze's attorney, 
told Emboff on May 20 that she had spoken with Aleksey 
Aleksandrov by telephone and he had raised the same concerns 
with her.  She noted that there were similarities between the 
Aleksandrov and Gongadze murders, and that in both cases the 
principal planners behind the murders have not been brought 
to justice.  When asked if the threat to Aleksandrov is real, 
she explained that although she would like to think Ukraine 
had made progress, she believed that harm could come to 
Aleksandrov - especially in Donetsk Oblast where politics, 
business, and organized crime are closely intertwined.  She 
added that although conditions in Donetsk Oblast had improved 
somewhat in recent years, unexplained killings and 
disappearances still occur.  She could not rule out the 
possibility that a petty criminal could be ordered by senior 
 
local officials to silence the Aleksandrov family, and noted 
that Gongadze faced the same fear and uncertainty about 
threats against him, but decided to stay on thinking the 
worst outcome would be a beating, before he was actually 
killed in 2000. 
 
Media Watchdog Confirms Legal Support 
------------------------------------- 
 
10.  (C) Victoria Syumar of the Institute for Mass 
Information (IMI), a media watchdog group, confirmed that IMI 
had provided legal assistance to the Aleksandrov family. 
However, she doubted that the family would succeed in its 
efforts to get the European Court of Human Rights to hear its 
appeal for the monetary compensation ordered but not enforced 
by the Ukrainian court system.  She confirmed that the family 
had expressed fear of reprisals from criminal elements deeply 
embedded in Donetsk Oblast's power structure but provided no 
confirmation of Aleksandrov's claims or examples of similar 
incidents in Donetsk Oblast in recent years. 
 
Comment - Claim Does not Meet Threshold 
--------------------------------------- 
 
11.  (C) The fact of his father's murder and the general 
consensus among human rights observers that those behind his 
father's killing likely held important Government positions 
and have resorted to intimidation and violence in the past, 
compelled us to take Aleksandrov's claims seriously.  The 
problem described by Aleksandrov, corruption combined with 
violent removal of business competitors and journalists, 
appears to be worse in Donetsk than in other parts of 
Ukraine.  His claim of political persecution is based on the 
assertion that he and his family are regularly called in by 
the local prosecutor's office and SBU, where they are 
discouraged from investigating his father's murder, and 
threatening phone calls and the appearance of unknown persons 
at their home. 
 
12. (C) Post notes the family does not appear to be in 
immediate danger and that Aleksandrov's specific claims could 
not be verified by any other source.  We also note that there 
have been few reports of politically motivated killings in 
recent years and the Aleksandrovs have not exhausted all 
their options to remain in Ukraine while continuing their 
fight for justice.  For example, his claims that the media 
and human rights organizations are no longer willing to 
report his family's case and threats against them, is 
far-fetched.  There are examples of internet-based 
journalists and credible human rights activists in Ukraine, 
who have frequently criticized senior government officials - 
including their handling of the Gongadze case - without 
violent reprisal.  In the limited number of recent incidents 
involving attacks or acts of intimidation against reporters 
or human rights activists, most appeared to be the result of 
disputes with local authorities.  There have been no recent 
reports
 by credible human rights groups of senior officials 
involved in persecution, as had been the case during the 
Kuchma era. 
 
13. (C) Post also notes that the family has decided to remain 
in the city of Slavyansk, where Ihor Aleksandrov was murdered 
and where they continue to be called in by authorities. 
Although the family explained that they would feel unsafe in 
other parts of Ukraine, their decision to remain in 
Slavyansk, where the risk is probably highest, seems to 
indicate that they feel there is little immediate danger.  We 
also note that there is no way to verify Aleksandrov's 
specific claims that these threats are from Donetsk-based 
Government officials close to Viktor Yanukovych.  Because of 
these considerations, Post has determined that the 
Aleksandrov family does not meet the threshold to qualify as 
refugees.  We will continue to follow the case and reevaluate 
claims if the family brings forward more credible and 
compelling proof of political persecution. 
 
14. (U) Embassy Kyiv point of contact is Human Rights Officer 
Mark 490-4501, woodme@state.gov, woodme@state.sgov.gov. 
 
15. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
TAYLOR

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