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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 13:25 GMT
Ukraine's Kuchma mourns ex-aide
Funeral of Yuri Kravchenko
Kravchenko had been told to testify in the Gongadze case
A funeral service has been held in Ukraine for ex-Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, who was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the head on Friday.

Ukrainian officials say he shot himself hours before he was due to appear before prosecutors investigating the high-profile murder of a journalist.

At the funeral, former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma insisted that Kravchenko played no part in the crime.

The killing of Georgiy Gongadze in 2000 triggered anti-Kuchma protests.

Kuchma under pressure

Mr Kuchma defended his former minister on Monday, saying "under no conditions can I believe that he gave a criminal order".

GONGADZE CASE
Georgiy Gongadze
Sept 2000 - Abducted. Headless body is found weeks later
Jan 2001 - Tape recordings apparently implicating President Kuchma emerge
Feb 2001 - EU calls for murder inquiry
May 2001 - US forensic tests confirm headless body is Gongadze's
Dec 2004 - Viktor Yushchenko elected president, promises to solve case
1 March 2005 - Suspected killers arrested
"The question to be answered is - who stood to gain from it? He answered that question by saying he was not guilty and I hereby confirm that," said Mr Kuchma.

He himself is expected to be questioned by prosecutors this week, amid allegations that he was implicated in the murder.

Mr Kuchma returned to Ukraine at the weekend after a holiday in the Czech Republic.

Kravchenko is reported to have left a suicide note blaming Mr Kuchma for Gongadze's death.

He described himself as "a victim of the intrigues of Kuchma and his entourage," investigators say.

Mr Kuchma denies any involvement in the killing of the journalist.

Political scandal

More than 100 people filed past Kravchenko's open coffin at a theatre in central Kiev, commiserating with his widow.

Ex-President Leonid Kuchma and wife Lyudmila next to Kravchenko coffin
Mr Kuchma strongly denies any role in Gongadze's murder

He was found dead on Friday at his home in the exclusive Kiev suburb of Konche Zaspa.

President Viktor Yushchenko has pledged to find out who abducted and killed Gongadze, who reported on high-profile corruption scandals.

A proper investigation was among the main demands of the pro-Western opposition, which staged the "orange revolution" that brought Mr Yushchenko to power in January following disputed elections.

Ukraine's chief prosecutor said earlier this week that the authorities knew who had ordered Gongadze's killing.

The discovery of Gongadze's headless body in a wood near Kiev triggered a political scandal, especially after the emergence of a secret recording that allegedly implicated Mr Kuchma.

In the tapes, Mr Kuchma was heard to complain about Gongadze's reporting and allegedly ordered Kravchenko to "get rid of" the journalist.

Mr Kuchma says the tapes were edited to distort his words.

According to Ukrainian law, the former president has no immunity against criminal prosecution.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Ukraine
02 Mar 05 |  Country profiles



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