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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Judge denies journalist's murder solved
Demonstrators call for resignation of President Kuchma
The journalist's murder put pressure on Kuchma to resign
A judge investigating the murder of a Ukrainian journalist has rejected claims by the government that the case has been solved.


I have a simple question to ask the minister. How could the murderers confess to the murder if they were already dead?

Gongadze family lawyer
On Tuesday the interior minister said that the murderers of the dissident journalist Georgiy Gongadze had been found - but that the two killers were themselves now dead.

But the prosecutor-general's office denied this in a statement sent to the Gongadze family's lawyer.

"It is premature to claim that the crime involving the murder of Georgiy Gongadze has been solved.

"The investigators are working on a number of versions but those versions are yet to be studied," it said.

President implicated

Mr Gongadze disappeared last year, and a headless body believed to be his was later found in a forest.

A tape-recording later emerged, appearing show President Leonid Kuchma, ordering the journalist's death.

Georgiy Gongadze
Gongadze's murder caused a crisis in the Ukraine
But the interior minister, Yuri Smirnov, insisted on Tuesday that Mr Gongadze's death had been a random act of violence by "hooligans" and completely unrelated to the president.

"The two perpetrators have died, no one organised it because this was a spontaneous event.

"The crime has been solved and it has no political grounds. This is a purely criminal matter."

More questions

But as far as the Gongadze family is concerned, the government's story simply does not add up.

"I doubt that this is the truth," said Andriy Fedur, a lawyer for Mr Gongadze's mother.

"I have a simple question to ask the minister. How could the murderers confess to the murder if they were already dead?"

The scandal has brought intense pressure on President Kuchma to resign. He initially denied that the voice on the tape-recordings was his, but later said his words had been doctored.

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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Europe
Ukraine crisis timeline
29 Nov 00 | Media reports
Death, lies and audiotape - Ukraine-style
27 Feb 01 | Media reports
Kuchma rejects Ukraine murder claims
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Ukraine seeks FBI help
19 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Ukraine's air of unrest
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