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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Notorious murder grips Ukraine
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

A picture of Georgiy Gongadze watches over the office where he helped set up the website Ukrainska Pravda.

Photo of Georgiy Gongadze in Ukrainska Pravda office
The Gongadze inquiry symbolises Ukraine's fresh start
Many of his articles were critical of the Ukrainian government, at a time when it was dangerous to be an opposition journalist.

Sipping coffee from an orange "Yes - Yushchenko" mug, Olena Prytula is updating the website.

Olena is the chief editor of Ukrainska Pravda which she helped to set up with Georgiy.

Ever since he was abducted and murdered in 2000, the news site has campaigned for the killers to be found and the case solved.

No one has ever been convicted.

"I think it will be some kind of case which will be inside of all the Ukrainians and everybody will remember for themselves who Georgiy Gongadze was and what he did for Ukraine." Olena says.

National cause

It has become the most high-profile murder investigation in Ukraine.

The country's new president Viktor Yushchenko vowed to bring the killers to justice, saying it was one of his top priorities.

It is the most important case for the future of our government
Olena Prytula, journalist
The murder of Mr Gongadze almost five years ago galvanised the opposition.

The then President Leonid Kuchma was allegedly implicated in the killing by secret tape recordings.

On Friday the Interfax news agency reported claims that the bugging of Mr Kuchma had been carried out on the orders of the then security council chief, Yevhen Marchuk.

The allegation was made by Aleksander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB security service agent, who fled to Britain in 2000 and was given political asylum.

He said Mykola Melnychenko, the former presidential bodyguard who released the tapes, had told him Mr Marchuk ordered the wire-tapping.

The scandal which followed almost brought down Mr Kuchma's government.

Mr Kuchma has always denied being involved.

Last month the ex-president was interviewed by the prosecutor general.

Murder trail

A two-hour drive from Kiev is a memorial to Mr Gongadze, near the forest where his remains where found.

Orange ribbons which symbolise last year's mass opposition protests are still tied to the stone monument.

The Gongadze monument near the forest where his body was found
Two senior police officers have been charged with Gongadze's murder
The body of the crusading journalist was beheaded before being buried in a shallow grave.

Now the ground is covered by snow but the murder trail has not gone cold.

The car which transported Mr Gongadze to the forest has been found, say investigators.

Two high-ranking police officers have also been charged in connection with the killing.

The prosecutor general says they now know who gave the order.

These new developments have happened since the new president came to power.

"For Ukrainian people it must be the symbol of the beginning of the new era, when they can say that we are free people not just in terms of speaking about it, but of really being free," says Yevhen Fedchenko, a political analyst.

But it will not be easy. Last month one of the key witnesses died hours before he was due to be interviewed.

The former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko was found dead at his home. Investigators say he shot himself twice in the head and the authorities have said they believe he committed suicide.

EU involvement

Independence Square, the focal point of the "Orange Revolution", now belongs to tourists and shoppers.

One of the protesters' rallying cries was for Mr Gongadze's killers to be brought to justice.

Georgiy Gongadze
Georgiy Gongadze was investigating alleged corruption
But it is not just those who demonstrated here who want to see a result.

"I think it'll be one of the most emotive things which will influence our relations internationally," says Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko, who was also one of the organisers of the revolution.

"It is difficult to imagine the European Union ever being happy, if we don't solve the case."

A representative from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has been in Kiev this week on a fact-finding mission.

The human rights body is due to launch a new enquiry into the case.

Establishing who ordered the killing of Mr Gongadze could be one of the biggest tests for Mr Yushchenko.

But he has staked his political future on it.

"It's the most important case for the future of our government and it seems to me that the new president and the new government really understand what that means for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people," says Olena.


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