Tymoshenko calls Kuchma charges ‘distraction’ tactics

Charges against Ukraine’s former president, Leonid Kuchma, over the death of an opposition journalist are designed to distract the public from pressing problems, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said on Friday.

“The criminal case against Kuchma is a distraction maneuver by [President Viktor] Yanukovych, who wants to distract people’s attention from economic and social problems,” Tymoshenko said on her website.

Ukrainian prosecutors on Tuesday opened a criminal case against Kuchma, the president of Ukraine in 1994-2005, on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 death of investigative journalist and regime critic Georgy Gongadze.

Shortly after the journalist’s decapitated body was found in a forest near Kiev in November 2000, Kuchma’s former bodyguard released a tape, which he had allegedly recorded in the ex-president’s office.

The tape allegedly features a conversation, in which a voice that sounds like Kuchma’s speaks of a plan to kill the journalist.

In June 2008, three former employees of the Interior Ministry’s criminal investigations department were found guilty of murdering Gongadze. The officers said they killed the journalist on orders from the former head of the ministry’s criminal investigations department, Lt. Gen. Oleksiy Pukach.

Pukach was arrested in the summer of 2009 and is now awaiting trial.

In September, prosecutors said Yuriy Kravchenko, interior minister in 2000, ordered the murder. Kravchenko purportedly committed suicide in 2005.

KIEV, March 25 (RIA Novosti)

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