Ukrainian former internal affairs minister found dead in his country house

Gen. Yuri Kravchenko is said to have committed suicide over his implication in a notorious murder case

New victims appear in journalist Georgi Gongadze's murder case, although spokespeople for Ukrainian authorities said that the investigation was about to be completed. Ukrainian former Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen. Yuri Kravchenko, was found dead yesterday morning. The former minister has supposedly committed suicide. Yuri Kravchenko's body was found in his country house in Konche-Zaspe, an elite settlement on the outskirts of Kiev. It is noteworthy that the Ukrainian president's residence is situated in the same settlement too.

According the former minister's driver, Yuri Kravchenko shot himself at 7.45 a.m., local time. Investigators say, however, that suicide was simply one of the versions of the incident. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko hurried to announce that the general's death was linked with the investigation of Gongadze's case.

Yuri Kravchenko was supposed to appear in the Office of the Prosecutor General yesterday to be questioned about journalist Gongadze's murder. The minister was summoned to appear in the office after ex-president Leonid Kuchma's former security guard, Nikolai Melnichenko, stated that he was ready to return to Ukraine to expose the tapes, which allegedly proved Kuchma's guilt in the journalist's death. In 2000, Melnichenko taped a conversation between Leonid Kuchma and Yuri Kravchenko, in which the two officials discussed an opportunity to kill Gongadze. In 2001, the USA gave a political shelter to Kuchma's former security guard.

It seems that incumbent authorities do not doubt about the authenticity of Nikolai Melnichenko's audio tapes. The Ukrainian opposition used them to accuse President Kuchma of his implication in the journalist's murder. The Kiev-based Forensic Examination Research Institute determined in September of 2004 that the audio tapes were fake. No one paid any attention to the expert conclusion during the peak of the pre-election race.

It is worth mentioning that Major Nikolai Melnichenko is suffering from the persecution mania. On March 2nd, Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun offered the major to return to Ukraine to testify in the murder case and expose the audio tapes. The prosecutor guaranteed immunity and safety to the major. Melnichenko, however, demands these guarantees from President Yushchenko personally. “I believe that President Yushchenko wants to solve the case, but it is an impossible goal to achieve when Svyatoslav Piskun takes the office of the prosecutor general. It is too early to say that the investigation is over. Yushchenko is being set up by Piskun, who is a worthless person,” Melnichenko said. Nikolai Melnichenko suspects not only the former president of Ukraine and the prosecutor general, but the now-deceased former Internal Affairs Minister as well. Melnichenko believes that other Ukrainian politicians, such as former chief of the Ukrainian Security Service, Leonid Derkach, and the speaker of the parliament, Vladimir Litvin, are involved in Georgi Gongadze's murder.

It is noteworthy that Vladimir Litvin used to be the chairman of Kuchma's administration. The politician was informed about many secrets of the Ukrainian ex-president. However, one should bear in mind the fact that Ukraine is holding parliamentary elections next year. Vladimir Litvin has a potential to become the so-called third force in the country, which may win those people, who do not support either Yushchenko or Yanukovich. Furthermore, the role of the parliament will be considerably increased in Ukraine from September 1, 2005, according to the new political reform in the nation. Vladimir Litvin is likely to become a serious competitor to both President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko.

On the photo: Yuri Kravchenko

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Author`s name Olga Savka