U.S. Embassy Calls On Kyiv To Investigate All Crimes Against Journalists On Gongadze Anniversary

KYIV — The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has called on Kyiv to invetsigate all crimes against journalists as the country marked the 20th anniversary of the day when prominent reporter, Heorhiy Gongadze, disappeared and later found dead.

The video-statement in Ukrainian by the U.S. Embassy’s Counselor for Public Affairs Walter Braunohler was posted on Facebook on September 16.

“Today we commemorate Heorhiy Gongadze, a brave journalist who was killed for seeking the truth. No member of the press should be threatened, attacked or arrested for doing his or her job, and crimes against journalists should be thoroughly and promptly investigated so that those responsible are held accountable. Independent media are an important part of successful democracies,” said US diplomats.

Gongadze, who exposed high-level political corruption, was kidnapped on September 16, 2000. His decapitated body was later found in a forest outside the Ukrainian capital.

Then-president Leonid Kuchma was accused of involvement in the murder based on audio recordings secretly made in his office.

Prosecutors charged Kuchma in 2011, but a court dropped the charges later that year.

In 2008, three former police officers were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for the Gongadze killing.

Then, in 2012, former top police official General Oleksiy Pukach was handed a life sentence after being convicted of strangling Gongadze to death.

Investigators said at the time that former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, who was found dead in his apartment near Kyiv in 2005 and whose death was ruled as a suicide, had ordered Gongadze’s murder.

Gongadze’s relatives, however, have said they believe that the real perpetrators of the crime have yet to be named.

Gongadze’s body was buried on March 22, 2016, in a Kyiv cemetery.