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You're reading: Media circus follows Melnychenko to Warsaw

Former presidential security guard releases more recordings, says they prove guilt of Kuchma, others.

ential guard Mykola Melnychenko included previously unreleased conversations of secret recordings he made in late 1999.

Hours of the secret recordings, which were released in early 2001, triggered “Tapegate” – Ukraine’s worst political crisis ever.

On Oct. 20 Melnychenko called a press conference in Warsaw for Ukrainian and Polish journalists and turned over three previously unreleased fragments of conversations made in 1999 between President Leonid Kuchma and then Donetsk governor Viktor Yanukovych. The whistleblower said that the snippets “prove” Kuchma and Yanukovych conspired to rig the presidential elections in 1999, bribed parliament deputies, and muzzled disobedient media.

The press conference wasn’t worth the nine-hour drive to Warsaw for Viktor Shlindchak, editor of the popular Glavred Internet news site.

“Nothing new to report,” he concluded in an article, titled “Melnychenko Overload.”

“The circus never ends,” said former parliament majority coordinator Stepan Havrysh, who nicknamed Melnychenko “Major Mothball” the next day.

“The search for kompromat [compromising materials] against Viktor Yanukovych by the ultra-right radical oppositionists will fail,” Havrysh opined to Ukrainska Pravda on Oct.20. “In this case, they’ve decided to use an individual known for his ability to create and sustain a scandal.”

Recordings from Melnychenko’s archive released in early 2001 led to months of street protests calling for Kuchma’s resignation.

“We took a long time searching through the recordings to find the new snippets,” Ukrainska Pravda, which acts as Melnychenko’s press service in Kyiv, quoted the guard as saying.

The former guard’s appearance in Warsaw created more questions than answers, as he was unwilling to provide journalists with details, or give a reason why he hadn’t gone public with the new information earlier.

Melnychenko in November 2000 fled Ukraine with 35 CDs containing an estimated 500-700 hours of recordings. He has since accused Kuchma and several high-ranking government officials of corruption and of committing other grave crimes, including the murder of opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze.

The United States granted Melnychenko, his wife Liliya and daughter Lesya refugee status in April 2001 amid rumors that gangsters were trailing them in the Czech region of Moravia.

Melnychenko now admits that he was in cahoots with defense minister Yevhen Marchuk in 1999 before switching allegiance to Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz in early 2000.

Melnychenko says he parted company with Marchuk after Kuchma named the latter to chair the National Defense and Security Council in November 1999. The European Court of Human Rights, meanwhile, on Oct. 19 voted 6-1 in favor of Melnychenko, saying Ukraine violated the rights of the refugee in 2002 when he was barred from running in the parliamentary elections on the Socialist Party ticket.

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