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Ukraine: Media Organization Can't Authenticate Tapes

Vienna, 28 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- An independent international press organization says it cannot authenticate tapes linking Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the kidnapping and murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The Vienna-based International Press Institute said it was impossible to know whether the tapes had been digitally altered as the recording was voice-activated and included many starts and stops.

Kuchma denies all involvement in Gongadze's disappearance last September and his subsequent murder. On the tapes, Kuchma is heard ordering Gongadze's disappearance. But the Ukrainian president says the tapes were edited to put words in his mouth.

One of Kuchma's former bodyguards says he recorded the conversations by placing the tape recorder under a sofa in Kuchma's office.

(For more on this story see: Ukraine: Ex-Bodyguard Says There Is No Greater Criminal Than Kuchma -- Part I: Motivations. Part II will be issued tomorrow)