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Former Kuchma Bodyguard Returns To Ukraine

Mykola Melnychenko arriving in Kyiv on 30 November (epa) 1 December 2005 -- An ex-presidential bodyguard who says he secretly recorded conversations of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has returned to Kyiv after nearly five years in exile.

Mykola Melnychenko told reporters following his arrival on 30 November that he hoped to see Kuchma and his allies punished for their alleged involvement in the 2000 murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

Melnychenko, who has been given assurances of his safety by Ukrainian authorities, is expected to be questioned by prosecutors who are investigating the case.

"We came back to Ukraine," Melnychenko said. "This is our motherland and we will live here. And we will do everything in order to ensure Kuchma's gang is held responsible for the dangerous and particularly serious crimes committed against each of you. Let them be found responsible in court."

Melnychenko, who has been given political asylum in the United States, released audiotapes after Gongadze's killing that were allegedly made in Kuchma's office. In the recordings, a voice resembling the former president's is heard conspiring with top aides against Gongadze, who had written about high-level corruption under Kuchma.

Kuchma, who left office after last year's Orange Revolution, has repeatedly denied any involvement in Gongadze's killing.


The Melnychenko Tapes

The Melnychenko Tapes

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 Heorhiy 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." Here we present translated excerpts from the tapes dealing with the Gongadze case....(more)

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