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Ukraine finds 'reporter's skull'

28 July 09 17:12 GMT

Ukrainian investigators say they have found skull fragments believed to be those of the journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, who was decapitated in 2000.

The find came just days after the arrest of a former Ukrainian general suspected of carrying out the murder.

Mr Gongadze was an investigative journalist who had exposed high-level corruption. He was an outspoken critic of former President Leonid Kuchma.

Three policemen were convicted of his murder last year.

Ukrainian investigators said Gen Oleksiy Pukach, a former police officer himself, had confessed to the killing last week when he was arrested, after spending years on the run.

Mr Gongadze's decapitated body was found in a forest near the capital, Kiev, in September 2000, months after his abduction. He had been beaten and strangled, his body doused in petrol and burned.

Prosecutors allege that Gen Pukach - who was detained near Kiev - organised the abduction and personally strangled Mr Gongadze.

National scandal

Gen Pukach headed the interior ministry's surveillance department at the time of the killing.

But Mr Gongadze's family has always claimed someone more senior was behind the killing.

Secret tape recordings released soon after the killing appeared to implicate the then-President, Leonid Kuchma.

In the recordings - made secretly by a member of his personal guard and then released by an opposition politician - Mr Kuchma allegedly discussed ways of removing the journalist with a former interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko.

The latter was later found dead and was said to have committed suicide.

Mr Kuchma did not deny the voice in the recordings was his, but insisted it was doctored to make him appear to say things he did not actually say.

The scandal prompted massive street protests against Mr Kuchma's government.

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