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Body Of Ukrainian Reporter Gongadze Finally Buried

Orthodox priests stand next to a coffin containing the body of investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was killed in 2000, during a funeral ceremony in Kyiv on March 22.
Orthodox priests stand next to a coffin containing the body of investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was killed in 2000, during a funeral ceremony in Kyiv on March 22.

The body of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze has been buried in Kyiv, nearly 16 years after his killing, but family and friends say their fight for justice is not over.

Gongadze, a dogged investigative reporter who exposed high-level political corruption, was kidnapped in September 2000. His headless body was found that November in a forest outside the Ukrainian capital.

After years in a morgue, his body was buried on March 22 on the grounds of a Kyiv church. His widow, Myroslava, the head of VOA's Ukrainian Service, and two daughters, Solomia and Nana, flew in from Washington to attend the ceremony.

Gongadze's relatives "feel relieved that Heorhiy's body has been buried with the dignity every person deserves," according to a statement from the family that was read at the funeral by a friend of Gongadze's, journalist Yevhen Hlibovytskyy.

"Whoever contracted his murder must sooner or later be convicted by law," the statement read. "The rule of law is the path to establish justice in society. Freedom of speech and democracy in Ukraine will be the best memory of Heorhiy."

'No Expiration Date'

Friends of Gongadze emphasized in interviews with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that the investigation into his killing – which is widely believed to have been a contract murder -- should continue until whoever was behind it is prosecuted and punished.

Leonid Kuchma, who was president from July 1994 to January 2005, came under suspicion after the publication of a tape on which a voice that sounded like his spoke of the need to "deal with" Gongadze.

Prosecutors charged Kuchma with involvement in the case in 2011, but a court dropped the charges later that year.

In 2008, three former police officers were sentenced to lengthy prison terms after being convicted of involvement in the killing. In 2012, former top police official General Oleksiy Pukach received life in prison after being convicted of strangling Gongadze to death.

WATCH: Heorhiy Gongadze's Funeral In Kyiv

Ukrainian Journalist Buried 16 Years After Killing
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Yehor Checherynda, a journalist and former colleague of Gongadze's, said that Kuchma had been Gongadze's "enemy number one."

Much of the slain journalist's investigative work dealt with Kuchma and his inner circle.

"[Kuchma was] the enemy of the press, the enemy of all non-liberties in Ukraine. It's a shame, I think, that now this person represents Ukraine in some international organizations," Checherynda said.

Many people present at the ceremony expressed hope that justice will prevail.

Viktoria Syumar, head of the Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy in Ukraine's parliament, said that Ukraine would not change unless the country finds out everything about his murder.

Death And Dignity

"I think it's a matter of honor for young politicians and those politicians who came to power on the wave of the Revolution of Dignity to conduct objective society can finally see those who are guilty behind bars," she said.

Many Ukrainians refer to the pro-Western protests that pushed Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014 as the Revolution of Dignity.

Rostyslav Pavlenko, deputy head of President Petro Poroshenko's administration, also said it is crucial to get to the bottom of Gongadze's killing.

"A case like this has no expiration date, and society must know the answers," he said, adding that "the government will do everything it takes for it to happen."

Gongadze's mother, Lesya Gongadze, fought for answers until her death in November 2013. She did not believe that the body in the morgue was her son's.

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    Tetiana Iakubovych

    Tetiana Iakubovych is an award-winning journalist and senior radio producer for Donbas.Realities of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. She is a program host, the author of many popular multimedia reports and projects, and the director of the documentary My Shift about workers at Chernobyl.

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    Anna Shamanska

    Anna Shamanska is a social-media producer for Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

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