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Suspect Says Kuchma Ordered Gongadze Killing

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
KYIV -- The prime suspect in the killing of a Ukrainian journalist more than 10 years ago has reportedly told his trial that former President Leonid Kuchma was among those who ordered the murder, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Oleksiy Pukach is on trial for the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze, an investigative journalist whose headless body was found in late 2000.

Oleksiy Podolskyy, a former colleague of Gongadze's who attended the closed-door court session on August 30, said Pukach "clearly named former President Leonid Kuchma and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko as having ordered the murder."

Kuchma, who was president from 1994 to 2005, was charged earlier this year with exceeding authority with actions that led to Gongadze's killing.

Kravchenko was found dead in his summer house near Kyiv on March 4, 2005. The official cause of death was said to be suicide.

Valentyna Telychenko, the attorney representing Gongadze's widow, Myroslava, also told journalists after the session that Pukach testified he killed Gongadze "to save Ukraine."

She said Pukach told the court Gongadze and two associates had been preparing "since 1997 to seize power in Ukraine illegally, and so I killed him to save the country."

"One has to have guts and nerves to listen to something like that," Telychenko said.

Pukach is the former head of the Main Criminal Investigation Department at the Interior Ministry's foreign surveillance unit. He was arrested in July 2009 in Zhitomir Oblast and charged with Gongadze's murder.

Meanwhile, Andriy Fedur, the lawyer of Gongadze's mother, Lesya Gongadze, told journalists he was convinced Pukach's trial is being held behind closed doors to ensure that his testimony does not become common knowledge.

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