Top ex-police officer arrested in Ukrainian journalist murder

23rd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The journalist, who frequently critical of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma in articles for his Internet newspaper, disappeared in September 2000 after leaving a friend's apartment in Kiev.

Kiev -- Ukrainian authorities Wednesday said a former top police officer had been arrested on suspicion of having organised the 2000 murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze which contributed to the Orange Revolution four years later.

"General Olexy Pukach was arrested last night (Tuesday) by security services in the Zhitomir region" in north Ukraine, said Yuri Boitshenko, a spokesman for Kiev's prosecutor, adding that the suspect was being questioned by investigators.

Gongadze, frequently critical of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma in articles for his Internet newspaper, Ukrainska Pravda, disappeared in September 2000 after leaving a friend's apartment in Kiev.

What was believed to be his decapitated body was found two months later in woods near the capital. The head has never been recovered.

The brutal murder case has transfixed Ukraine, with current President Viktor Yushchenko making the investigation a priority for his administration which succeeded Kuchma in the country's 2004 pro-democracy movement.

Pukach, who at the time was responsible for external intelligence at the interior ministry, is suspected of having organised the stalking of the journalist and led a group of police officers who abducted Gongadze on September 16, 2000.

The top police officer allegedly was the one who strangled the 31-year-old victim and ordered his police accomplices to keep silent.

Suspected of having destroyed the documents in the case at the start of the investigation, Pukach was arrested for the first time in 2003 but then released.

Two years later, he was charged in the murder case but he has remained a fugitive until now.

Last March three ex-police officers were convicted of conspiracy to murder and were sentenced to 12 to 13 years in prison.

Those who ordered the killing remain unknown.

AFP/Expatica

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