Washington, 16 April (RFE/RL) -- The United States today confirmed that it has granted asylum to a former bodyguard of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma -- the same bodyguard who leaked a controversial recording of Kuchma. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the decision to grant asylum to Mykola Melnychenko does not reflect any change in U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Melnychenko had been in hiding since he released a recording of Kuchma's voice telling his security chief in crude slang to "get rid of" Heorhiy Gongadze -- an investigative journalist who had been critical of the president.
Gongadze's headless corpse was believed to be found in a shallow grave near Kyiv last November. His murder has sparked street demonstrations in Ukraine and calls for Kuchma to resign.
Kuchma has denied any involvement in the case. His spokesman has admitted the recording is of Kuchma, but says it is a crude montage.