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Ukraine: FBI To Probe Gongadze Death

  • Robert McMahon

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations says a team from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation will arrive in Kyiv later this week to help investigate the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The announcement came the same day senior U.S. and EU officials made critical remarks about Ukraine's political crisis.

United Nations, 7 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko says that an "expert group" of FBI officials would be coming to Kyiv at the request of the Ukrainian government to assist in the investigation of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's death.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. State Department on the Ukrainian announcement.

Yelchenko, who is also Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, told reporters yesterday (Tuesday) that he met last week in Washington with officials of the U.S. State Department, the national security council, and treasury department. He said he stressed throughout his talks that Ukrainian authorities were committed to holding open investigations into Gongadze's death.

"I've told my American counterparts that the only (aim) of the president of Ukraine, of the foreign minister of Ukraine, of the government of Ukraine, is to learn the truth about this case, both the Gongadze case and the tapes."

Gongadze had been a frequent critic of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his close associates prior to his disappearance in September. A headless body, officially ruled to be Gongadze's, was discovered near Kyiv in November. At about the same time, excerpts of a tape recording were released in which Kuchma appeared to be ordering that Gongadze be kidnapped.

Kuchma has denied any involvement in the Gongadze disappearance but protests and accusations from opposition politicians have grown in recent weeks.

Yelchenko, the deputy foreign minister, repeatedly said at a news conference at UN headquarters that the Ukrainian government was committed to a transparent investigation of the case. But he acknowledged the investigation started out slowly and that "mistakes" were made.

"We admit that there were a lot of mistakes done during the initial stage of the investigation of the Gongadze case and that is something which should be corrected."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington yesterday (Tuesday) that the Ukrainian political crisis has sidetracked needed economic reforms in Ukraine and is a source of considerable concern. He said Ukraine needs to resolve its political troubles and show that it is "worthy" of the kind of investment that will help it achieve reforms.

Powell made the comment following a meeting with top European Union officials. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh also expressed concern, calling it a "very difficult situation." She said the EU has received insufficient answers concerning the investigation into Gongadze's death. Sweden holds the current six-month EU presidency.

(Frank Csongos contributed to this report from Washington.)