17:30 29.07.2009

Tymoshenko hopes those who ordered killing of Gongadze will be identified and punished

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has said she hopes that those who ordered the killing of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze will be identified and punished following the arrest of Interior Ministry Lieutenant-General Oleksiy Pukach.

"I hope that he [Pukach] and those who ordered [the killing] won't be protected again," she said at a briefing in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Tymoshenko expressed regret that "we have had to wait nine years for our famous law enforcement agencies to arrest a man who lived nearby, and who, in fact, wasn't even in hiding."

As reported, journalist Georgy Gongadze went missing in Kyiv on September 16, 2000. In November 2000, a decapitated body believed, according to experts, to be that of the journalist, was found in a forest in Kyiv region.

The body has yet to be interred, as the journalist's mother, Lesia Gongadze, refuses to bury her son without his head.

In 2008, three former officials of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's foreign surveillance department and criminal intelligence unit - colonels Valeriy Kostenko, Mykola Protasov, and major Oleksandr Popovych, were found guilty of killing the journalist and sentenced to 12 (Kostenko and Popovych) and 13 (Protasov) years in prison.

The former chief of the main criminal investigation department at the ministry's foreign surveillance unit, Oleksiy Pukach, was long on the wanted list, and arrested in Zhytomyr region on July 21, 2009, as a result of a joint operation by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Prosecutor General's Office. However, it remains unclear who ordered the murder.

On July 23, Kyiv's Pechersky district court decided to remand Pukach in custody for two months.

SBU Deputy Head Vasyl Hrytsak said earlier that Pukach had confessed to complicity in the murder of the journalist, named people who had allegedly ordered the crime, and pointed to the whereabouts of the journalist's head. However, his lawyer said that Pukach had not provided this testimony.

The Prosecutor General's Office accused Pukach of being involved in the journalist's murder. Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko refused to comment whether Pukach named those who ordered the murder or not, saying a "secret investigation" was underway.

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