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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
'Killer admits' Gongadze murder
Georgiy Gongadze
Georgiy Gongadze wrote for a news website
A convicted killer has confessed to the murder of an opposition journalist in Ukraine, the prosecution says.

Journalist Georgiy Gongadze's headless body was found near Kiev in 2000.

The prosecutor-general's office said in a statement the man, identified only as "K", had been previously prosecuted for several murders involving beheading.

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma has been linked to the killing, but he has always denied any involvement. The row almost toppled Mr Kuchma in 2001.

"During questioning, this man said he was the murderer of Gongadze and his statement fits the circumstances of the crime, in particular concerning the decapitation," the statement said.

The murderer was of sound mind and was in prison, the prosecution spokeswoman Oksana Sokolova told the AFP news agency.

In a separate development on Monday, the circumstances surrounding the death in police custody of a key witness to the Gongadze affair would be investigated, the prosecution said.

Ihor Honcharov - who died last August - was a former police officer who had accused Mr Kuchma of being involved in the Gongadze murder.

Honcharov's death was due to spinal injuries suffered in custody and criminal proceedings had been opened against several police in the matter, prosecutor's office spokesman Serhiy Rudenko said.

Impeachment calls

Georgiy Gongadze, who crusaded against corruption in Ukraine, was allegedly abducted from Kiev in September 2000 and his decapitated body was found in November in woods outside the capital.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
Kuchma denies any involvement to the affair

Last week, the special parliamentary committee which has been examining events surrounding the killing - in particular secret tape recordings allegedly implicating Mr Kuchma - said the president should be impeached.

It is also to recommend that the prosecutor general bring criminal proceedings against the Ukrainian leader.

The committee, which is dominated by opposition MPs, alleges that it can link Mr Kuchma to the case although it admitted that it could not prove that he organised the murder of the internet journalist.

A date now has to be scheduled for the committee to present its findings to the Ukraine parliament.

With a presidential election just months away, these recommendations are likely to be damaging for Mr Kuchma and his allies including his chosen successor, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

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