Death Squad Killing Ukrainian Journalists? - 22 November, 2002

No one believes journalist Mikhail Kolomeits’s suicide. Most likely, it was a well-organized murder

PRAVDA.Ru has recently reported about the disappearance of the director of the news agency Ukrainian News, Mikhail Kolomeits. On October 21st, he did show up to work and stopped answering phone calls. According to the Ukrainian police, Kolomeits took a train from Kiev to the capital of Belarus, Minsk on October 22nd. The train’s conductor identified his photograph later. During the period of October 21-28, Kolomeits made some phone calls to his friends and colleagues.

Making those phone calls, the journalist allegedly said that he was going to commit suicide. This information has not been verified, but this is according to the journalist’s friends. This information became the basis for the official version of Kolomeit’s death: suicide. The journalist allegedly told a friend that he was no longer needed in the world and that he had lived his life out.

The Ukrainian police said last Monday that the journalist’s body was found in the republic of Belarus. The body was found hanging in a forest on October 30th. On November 11th, the body was buried without being identified. That was a weird thing to happen, for the journalist was being sought after everywhere, and even Interpol was involved. When the dead body was found, the journalist’s mother identified her son and then left for Ukraine.

After that, Mikhail Kolomeits’s mother went to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, asking them to institute criminal proceedings for her son’s death. She also asked them to conduct an autopsy to find out the cause of his death. The office upheld the request. Criminal proceedings were instituted, and the mysterious death is being investigated. Yet, there is the impression that the investigators already know the circumstances in advance. The case was filed on Article 120, part 1 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code - driving a person to suicide. It is not clear why they believed that the journalists hanged himself? Why didn’t the police think that someone might have killed him? Neither his colleagues, nor friends are drawn to believe the suicide version of his death. His mother, Olga Kolomeits, said that she does not know any reason why her son might have killed himself. She added that he was a successful man, and no one can prove to her the fact that he committed suicide.

Other people that knew Mikhail Kolomeits in person say that even if he said such a phrase “I am no longer needed in this world,” it should not be interpreted as an intention to kill himself. Maybe, he was talking about some danger. All of his friends and pals said that Mikhail Kolomeits was a person who could not have committed suicide. Some people also suggested that the suicide version might have appeared because of the journalist’s enemies.

The death of Ukrainian journalist Mikhail Kolomeits reminds one of another tragedy that happened in Ukrainian journalism. On March 12th, 1997 journalist of the newspaper Kiev Vedomosty, Pyotr Shevchenko, was found hanged in a desolate boiling house. Three days before, the journalist came to the Ukrainian capital Kiev to receive his pay. However, he did not show up in the newspaper’s office. Later, it was determined that the journalist did not eat or drink anything for 24 hours. However, it was not known where he spent those last 24 hours of his life. The official version of the investigation says that the journalist committed suicide. Why would he come to Kiev from the provincial town of Lugansk for that? Why would Mikhail Kolomeits go to Belarus from Kiev to commit suicide? There are many questions and no answers.

It should be said here that none of Pyotr Shevchenko’s friends or relatives believe the suicide version of his death. They have their own explanations for that. Sergey Kisilev, a journalist of the newspaper Kiev Vedomosty, wrote that a top official of Ukraine's Security Service told two journalists of the newspaper that special services had their own way of imitating suicide by hanging. “That officer told us that four men could hang anyone in a way to make it look absolutely suicidal,” wrote Sergey Kisilev.

A medical expert told a Kiev Vedomosty journalist that there was another method like that used by Western special services. “They inject the victim with drugs, which make the victim fulfil any order, even an order to commit suicide,” an expert said.

One should be really careful with official versions of deaths. Pyotr Shevchenko and Mikhail Kolomeits’s cases look similar. It will not be a surprise to learn that these two incidents happened because of one and the same “group.” A hypothesis of death squads in Ukraine does not seem to be a fantasy. The investigation must deal with Mikhail Kolomeits’s death first.

Andrey Lubensky

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka