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Ukraine must seize opportunity of confessions to reporter's murder to reveal truth, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - 23 July 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that the arrest on Tuesday of General Oleksiy Pukach, the main suspect in the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze, who was killed in 2000, and his reported confessions to the killing provide authorities with a unique opportunity to reveal the truth about this vicious crime and bring to justice all those who were responsible for it.

"This is the moment of truth which Georgy's family and colleagues have been waiting for," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The authorities must not miss this opportunity to uncover the ring leaders in this crime."

According to reports quoting senior police sources in Ukraine, General Oleksiy Pukach, who was arrested on Tuesday, has confessed to Georgy's murder and reportedly indicated that other senior politicians were involved.

Pukach was the chief of the interior ministry's surveillance department in 2000 when Georgy, publisher of the Internet journal Ukrainska Prawda, was kidnapped and his beheaded body found months later. The journalist had been investigating corruption at senior levels of the Ukrainian government led by former President Leonid Kuchma.

The IFJ and its affiliates from all over the world have been campaigning to obtain justice for Georgy. They joined the United States, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, along with every other major human rights and journalism pressure group, in voicing concern over the Government's handling of the case.

In particular, the IFJ published a report in 2003, "Unity For Justice: The Challenge of Change for Journalism in the Ukraine", which denounced the lack of commitment to solve Georgy's murder following a joint mission of inquiry to Ukraine with the National Union of Journalists in UK and Ireland (NUJ), an IFJ affiliate.

In 2008, three former policemen, Mykola Protasov, Valeriy Kostenko and Oleksandr Popovych, who were charged with killing Georgy were convicted and sentenced to jail terms. Former Minister of Interior Yuri Kravchenko, who was also linked to the murder, allegedly committed suicide, reports say.

"The murder of Georgy has been a tale of turns and twists which many believe were diversionary tactics to shield powerful individuals who are behind it from accountability," added Boumelha "That is no longer an option with the arrest of Pukach and the information he is able to disclose. We expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

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