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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 23:48 GMT
Death, lies and audiotape - Ukraine-style
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
Kuchma strongly denies the opposition allegations
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Ukrainian editor has taken a new turn, with President Leonid Kuchma threatening to sue an opposition leader who accused him of complicity in the affair.

Georgiy Gongadze, editor of the internet newspaper Ukrainska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) was last seen on 17 September.

His website, known for its criticism of Mr Kuchma and leading businessmen, says a headless corpse was found in early November with similar distinguishing body marks to the journalist.

Georgiy Gongadze
Georgiy Gongadze was an outspoken critic of the presiden

The discovery of the body at a rural morgue south of Kiev was not reported to the media for two weeks.

As Mr Gongadze's colleagues were preparing to move the body to Kiev on 15 November, it vanished.

The police, who at first said the body could not be Mr Gongadze's, later announced that it was in their possession and was being examined. It has not yet been conclusively identified.

Kuchma accused

Meanwhile, opposition Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz has told parliament that he has a tape-recording of several alleged conversations between President Kuchma and senior members of his administration on ways of getting rid of Mr Gongadze.

"This is a moral and political act, a step that I have to take because I possess information that no one else has," Mr Moroz said, in what private STB TV described as a "sensational statement".

He added that he had been given the recording by a member of the Security Service of Ukraine and had had its authenticity independently verified abroad.

These assertions are absolutely groundless

Presidential press secretary Oleksandr Martynenko

Both the recording and a transcript are available on the Ukrainska Pravda website. In it, a man - allegedly Mr Kuchma - is heard discussing with others the possibility of deporting Gongadze to Georgia or arranging his kidnapping by Chechens.

There are also discussions relating to Mr Gongadze's complaints last summer that he was being followed, and mention is made of Mr Moroz's financial support for Ukrainska Pravda.

'Complete insinuations'

Mr Kuchma's press secretary dismissed the allegations and hinted that the president may take the politician to court.

"The press service of Ukraine's president has been authorised to say that these assertions are absolutely groundless and are complete insinuations and, correspondingly, are defined as insult and slander by Ukraine's criminal code," Oleksandr Martynenko said.

He added that Mr Kuchma reserved the right to "take adequate measures including steps to protect his honour and dignity in court".

The head of the presidential administration, Volodymr Lytvyn, who is allegedly party to some of the discussions, has also threatened legal action.

For their part, the Ukrainian security services have also dismissed the possibility that one of their number may have made such a recording.

It would be technically and physically impossible to do so in the president's offices, a security services statement said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

19 Sep 00 | Media reports
Outspoken Ukraine journalist missing
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