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Ukrainian Journalist's Widow Wants Charges Against Kuchma Restored

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
KYIV -- The wife of murdered Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze has appealed a court ruling that dropped charges against former President Leonid Kuchma for complicity in the killing, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Valentyna Telychenko, lawyer of widow Myroslava Gongadze, told journalists in Kyiv that the official appeal was sent via mail to the court of appeals in Kyiv on December 21.

Kuchma, who was president from 1994 to 2005, was charged in March with exceeding his authority by undertaking actions that led to the 2000 killing of Heorhiy Gongadze, a prominent investigative journalist.

Kuchma denies any involvement in the murder.

Much of the case against Kuchma, 72, was based on alleged secret tape recordings by his former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko.

Those rercordings indicated Kuchma's annoyance with Gongadze and included talk of how to "silence" him.

On December 14, the court dropped all charges against Kuchma, saying the tapes had been acquired by illegal means and therefore could not be accepted as evidence.

On December 15, Myroslava Gongadze told RFE/RL from Washington, where she lives with her two daughters, that she will continue fighting for justice for her late husband. She added that she does not trust Ukraine's courts and will refer the case to a European court if she has to.

Heorhiy Gongadze was kidnapped in September 2000. His headless body was found two months later.

The prime suspect in the killing, Oleksiy Pukach, said at his trial in August that Kuchma was among those who ordered the murder.

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.

The Prosecutor-General's Office has also appealed the decision by the Pechera district court in Kyiv to drop the charges against Kuchma.

Read more in Ukrainian here