A screen capture of Melnychenko's testimony about his tapes
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun said on 3 March that he wants the secret recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in former President Leonid Kuchma's office to be examined by international experts and, if authenticated, to be included as evidence in the case of the abduction and murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Piskun announced that he has closed a criminal case against Melnychenko for illegal eavesdropping on Kuchma and invited the former presidential bodyguard, who had obtained refugee status in the United States, to come to Ukraine with his tapes for the proposed examination.
The Melnychenko tapes, some of which were transcribed and published on the Internet, have never been officially recognized as genuine in Ukraine. On the contrary, the former government of President Leonid Kuchma has made many attempts to put their authenticity in doubt and suggest that they were doctored to compromise Kuchma and other top-ranking Ukrainian officials. Which is no surprise -- the Melnychenko tapes suggest that Kuchma might at least have inspired former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko to abduct Georgian-born Gongadze, founder and editor-in-chief of the "Ukrayinska pravda" muckraking and investigative website in Ukraine, and "drive him out to Georgia" or hand him over to "the Chechens."
In the United States, Melnychenko hired a private audio-verification laboratory, Bek Tek, to analyze the segments of the recordings dealing with Gongadze. Bek Tek concluded that the recordings were authentic and had not been tampered with and that the voices were those of Kuchma and Kravchenko. The owner of Bek Tek, Bruce Koening, had been an FBI audio-verification expert for many years and his company had done similar verifications for the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous other organizations.
Irrespective of what will be done with the Melnychenko tapes in the Yushchenko era, "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report" considers it advisable to present some translated excerpts from the tapes dealing with the Gongadze case. These translations put the currently revived and reportedly successful investigation in the Gongadze case into a proper, even if linguistically shocking, context.
These transcriptions -- known as "episodes" -- were published on the Internet by the end of 2000. Currently, they can be found at http:/www.brama.com/survey/messages/4163.html and http:/www.perehid.org.ua/look/25_11_2000.phtml. The translations presented below are abbreviated and somewhat revised versions of the translations made by KPNews.com, which are currently available at http://www.totse.com/en/politics/police/kpnewscomsengl178978.html. The words "blya" and "blyad" are not translated, since they are here used not in their original meaning ("whore") but primarily for adding an emotional tincture to the speech. (Jan Maksymiuk)
Kuchma: Give me this one, about "Ukrayinska pravda"...(indecipherable). We will start to decide what to do with him. He has simply gone too far already.
Unknown: I need a case.
Unknown: Send for the case? (undecipherable)
Unknown: The case.... We are simply making a copy.
Kuchma: No, I don't necessarily need the case.... "Ukrayinska pravda," well, this is completely already, blya, insolence. Bastard, blya. The Georgian, Georgian.
Kuchma: Gongadze. Who finances him?
Unknown: Well, he actively works with this, with Moroz, with [the website] "Grani"....
Kuchma: It's just, blya... there is some son-of-a-bitch, blya.... Deport him, blyad, to Georgia and throw him out there -- f*** him. Drive him out to Georgia and throw him there. The Chechens should steal him and throw him.
Kuchma: So that I don't forget, there's this one Gongadze....
Kravchenko: I think I have [heard] this kind of surname.
Kuchma: Well, bastard, blya, of the final limit.
Kravchenko: Gongadze. He has already came our way somewhere....
Kravchenko: He passed by somewhere. We'll look [for him].
Kuchma: That means that he constantly writes to some 'Ukrayinska some kind of pravda,' pushes it in the Internet, understand? Who finances him?
Kravchenko: (indecipherable) I have people....
Kuchma: But the main thing [is] he needs to be pushed back. Volodya says the Chechens should steal him and drive him to Chechnya to f*** for himself and ask for a ransom....
Kuchma: This Gongadze.
Kravchenko: I, we're working on him. It means....
Kuchma: I'm telling you, drive him out, throw out. Give him to the Chechens. (indecipherable)...and then a ransom.
Kravchenko: We'll think it over. We'll do it in such a way so that.
Kuchma: I mean, drive him out, undress him, blya, leave him without his pants, let him sit there.
Kravchenko: I'd do it simply, blya, they reported to me about it today. We're learning the situation: where he's walking, how he walks. We've got someone sitting there hooked up. We have to study it a little bit, we'll do it. The team I have is a fighting one, such eagles, they'll do everything you want....