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Ukraine: Gongadze Murder Solved, Says Minister

Kyiv, 15 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's interior minister said today that journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was killed by two criminals -- who have since been murdered themselves. Interior Minister Yuriy Smirnov was quoted as saying that he considered the case of Gongadze's murder to have now been solved.

Smirnov said his ministry has "proof concerning the criminals, who have died, to our sorrow." He said the murder was a "purely criminal matter."

Smirnov added that the action to kill Gongadze by the two perpetrators was spontaneous and sudden and there were no other organizers.

Smirnov stopped short of providing details.

Gongadze, an outspoken critic of alleged high-level corruption in Ukraine, disappeared last September. Two months later, a beheaded body was found in the woods near Kyiv. Analyses by Russian and U.S. experts have confirmed the body belonged to Gongadze.

Political opposition groups in Ukraine have alleged President Leonid Kuchma's involvement in Gongadze's disappearance and killing.

In an interview last night with Russian television, Kuchma said police had "practically found" Gongadze's suspected killers. He did not elaborate. Kuchma also did not rule out a political motive for the murder. But he said it was doubtful, given that Gongadze was not a well-known opposition leader.