Former Gen. Aleksei Pukach is being tried on charges he strangled and beheaded Gongadze, a prominent investigative reporter and editor of the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. Pukach’s trial, which began July 7, has been conducted in private. News accounts of the proceedings are based on interviews with lawyers for the Gongadze family who were allowed to attend.
Pukach testified that Kuchma was among several senior officials who plotted the killing, with the direct order issued by now-deceased Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, Myroslava Gongadze, the journalist’s widow, told CPJ. Myroslava Gongadze was briefed on the proceedings by her lawyer. In his testimony, Pukach also implicated Vladimir Litvin, former head of Kuchma’s administration and now parliament speaker, and Kravchenko’s two deputies, Nikolai Dzhiga and the late Eduard Fere, the independent news website Gazeta reported.
Kuchma and Dzhiga denied involvement, saying Pukach fabricated the account to win leniency in court and avoid a potential life sentence, local press reports said. Litvin did not immediately respond to the accusation.