Georgiy Gongadze murder: A horrific crime
Sept. 17, 2010, 1:02 a.m. |
A timeline of the crime
June 12, 2000 – Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) head Leonid Derkach is allegedly heard on secretly recorded conversations as telling President Leonid Kuchma that journalist Georgiy Gongadze is author of a critical article entitled “The Ukrainian Putin.” Kuchma tells Derkach to “take care” of the journalist.
July 3, 2000 – During another secretly recorded conversation in the president’s office, Kuchma, along with Presidential Administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn and an unidentified man, allegedly talk disparagingly about Gongadze and the online news site he founded, Ukrainska Pravda. One of the men, believed to be former Deputy Interior Minister Yuriy Dagaev, suggests taking him to Georgia and leaving him there. Kuchma suggests arranging for Chechens to kidnap the journalist and demand a ransom.
July 14, 2000 – Gongadze writes an open letter to the general prosecutor, complaining that he is being trailed and asks for protection. Later, his complaint is corroborated in court and the surveillance car’s number plate is traced to the Interior Ministry.
Sept. 13-14, 2000 – Former police general Oleksiy Pukach, according to testimony he gave after his arrest on July 21, 2009, accuses Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko of ordering him to kill Gongadze.
Sept. 15, 2000 – Pukach and three police subordinates – Oleksandr Popovych, Mykola Protasov and Valeriy Kostenko – conspire to kidnap Gongadze.
Sept. 16, 2000:
22:30 – Gongadze leaves a building on 7 Lesi Ukrainky Street. Pretending to be a taxi driver, Popovych offers him a lift, encouraging him to take the back seat. Minutes later, two more people jump into the car on each side of Gongadze. Pukach takes the front passenger seat and hits Gongadze with a rubber truncheon. Gongadze repeatedly tells them who he is and asks to be released. His pleas are ignored.
23:45 – The car arrives in the village of Sukholisy in Kyiv Oblast, where Pukach picks up a rope and a spade and puts the items in the car trunk. Then the hostage is driven to a nearby forest.
Sept. 17, 2000
00:10 – Popovych starts to dig a grave. Protasov and Kostenko take Gongadze out of the car, remove his jacket and throw him on the ground. Pukach and Protasov hold him while Kostenko ties his arms and legs. The trio carries Gongadze to the grave. Pukach stuffs a handkerchief into the victim’s mouth and tries to strangle him with his hands. Following Pukach’s orders, Popovych removes Gongadze’s belt and Pukach tightens it around his neck. Gongadze resists and is kicked in the stomach several times, while Pukach continues to strangle Gongadze until he dies. Fuel is poured over and the corpse is set on fire. The remains are buried. Several items among Gongadze’s personal belongings are tossed out of the car on the way back to Kyiv. Pukach reports the murder to Kravchenko the following day.
Sept. 18, 2000 – According to Pukach’s testimony, Kravchenko orders him to bury the body in a different place.
October 2000 – According to Pukach’s testimony, Pukach drives a Nissan registered to the Interior Ministry back to the crime scene, digs up the body, takes it to Ulashivske forest in the Tarashcha district of Kyiv Oblast, beheads it with an axe and buries the body and some of the recognizable accessories that belonged to Gongadze, including a ring, a bracelet and a chain with a pendant. The head is buried 1.4 kilometers from Dovholivske and Kolisnykove villages on the Kyiv-Zolotonosha road in the Rakitnyansky district of Kyiv Oblast, 136 kilometers from Kyiv.
Nov. 2, 2000 – Two local residents find a hand sticking up from the ground and the body is later identified as Gongadze’s.
July 28, 2009 – Tipped off by Pukach, police find remains of skull they identify as Gongadze.
Sources: Ukrainska Pravda website, a book about Gongadze’s murder called “Beheaded” and authored by former Kyiv Post deputy editor Jaroslaw Koshiw, court statements, www.library.cjes.ru