A few hundred people gathered at Kyiv's Independence Square on Sept. 16 to honor the memory of Georgiy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist murdered on this day 12 years ago, and of more than 60 other journalists who lost their lives in the years since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
The participants of the memorial rally lit candles and stood around white paper boxes that had the names of the dead journalists written on them, as well as the words “honor,” “honesty,” “truth,” and “freedom of speech.”
Gongadze's murder has been mired in cover-ups, misdirection and stonewalling for the past 12 years, despite accusations and evidence implicating former President Leonid Kuchma and current Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn -- who both have consistently disputed the charges and denied any involvement. Nonetheless, authorities have admitted that Gongadze was murdered because of his work as a journalist. He founded the Ukrainska Pravda news site that remains one of the nation's most independent and popular sources of news.
Kuchma's interior minister, Yuriy Kravchenko, and others were implicated in the murder plot. Kravchenko was found shot to death of two gunshot wounds to the head in 2005, the day he was supposed to give testimony. Authorities ruled the death a suicide; Kravchenko's family disputes the ruling.
A closed criminal trial involving former Interior Minister Oleksiy Pukach, who authorities say confessed to kidnapping, beating and strangling Gongadze before trying to hide the evidence, has dragged on for two years.
Three police officers under Pukach's command are serving prison sentences after being convicted of involvement in Gongadze's murder.