Journalists Shocked at Death of Key Witness to Gongadze Murder

Ukraine journalists today expressed shock at the news of the death of Yury Kravchenko, a key witness in the inquiry into the murder of investigative reporter Gyorgy Gongadze. Kravchenko, was found dead at his home only hours before he was due to be interviewed by the state prosecutor. The Interior Ministry has stated that provisional examination of the scene indicates suicide.

“This is an appalling setback for the investigation. The authorities have committed themselves to solving the case but have carelessly failed to protect a key witness”, said Arne König, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, currently in Kyiv. “The government should immediately ensure all key witnesses are put under observation and given all necessary protection. The credibility of the new government rests on their capacity to solve the case”.

Earlier this week rapid progress appeared to be being made when two high ranking interior ministry police officers were arrested in connection with the murder and President Yushchenko announced that Gongadze’s killers had been found.

"Journalists will not be satisfied with the conviction of the killers alone," said Igor Lubchenko, President of the National Union of Journalists of the Ukraine and Sergey Guz, Chair of the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine. "Those who gave the orders must also be brought to justice. Only then will we believe that impunity is over and the state is capable of protecting its journalists".

Yury Kravchenko was Interior Minister when Gongadze was murdered in September 2000. His voice can be heard on the Melnychenko tapes that allegedly record former president Kuchma discussing Gongadze’s death.

The European Federation of Journalists represents over 260,000 journalists and is currently attending a conference in Kyiv on media reform organized by the Ukraine Journalists’ unions.

For further information contact:

Arne König - +46 40 517 7530 or David Crouch - +38 097 330 6009