Ex-Ukrainian president faces accuser in journalist murder case
Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma met face-to-face on Monday with a onetime security officer who has accused him of complicity in the murder of a journalist more than 10 years ago, DPA reported.
Prosecutors on March 24 named Kuchma as the subject of an investigation into allegations he ordered a September 2000 contract hit on Georgy Gongadze, editor of a news website that had been critical of the former president. Gongadze's burnt and beheaded body was discovered in woodlands.
Kuchma and his lawyers confronted Mykola Melnychenko, the former head of Kuchma's security detail, in the general prosecutor's office in Kiev, according to news reports.
A face-to-face meeting between a person accused of a serious crime and his accusers is standard procedure in a Ukraine.
"I am here so the truth can be known," Kuchma told reporters before the meeting with Melnychenko.
Gongadze, who ran the Ukrainska Pravda website, was kidnapped and murdered by a police hit squad.
Three members of the unit were sentenced in 2005 for their part in the contract killing, and the leader is in police custody and awaiting trial.
Ukrainian opposition groups have long accused Kuchma of complicity in Gongadze's death, citing an audio tape allegedly recorded by Melnychenko that seems to capture Kuchma's voice ordering then-interior minister Yury Kravchenko to "take out" the newsman.
Kravchenko is believed by investigators to have committed suicide in 2008, only hours before he was scheduled to give testimony to prosecutors on the Gongadze case. A suicide note allegedly left by Kravchenko accused Kuchma of betrayal. Kravchenko's body was found with two bullet wounds to the head.
Kuchma, who was president between 1994 and 2005, has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing.