Ukrainian police detain former state guard service employee involved in "cassette scandal"

October 24' 2012


 Police at the Borispol airport in Kiev detained former State Guard Service employee, key suspect in the "cassette scandal" Nikolai Melnichenko, the press service of the State Security Service /SBU/ reported on Wednesday.

"On October 24, SBU agents, together with border guards, acting upon resolution by Kiev's Shevchenko district court, detained at the Borispol international airport Ukrainian citizen Melnichenko wanted by Interpol," the press service reported.

The SBU's main investigation department is conducting a probe into the criminal case against Melnichenko. He is accused of divulging state secret, forgery of documents and exceeding his authority.

He was put on the wanted list in September 2011. The Shevchenko court passed a resolution on selecting arrest as the measure of restrain for him because of violation of recognizance and avoiding the investigators.

Melnichenko was detained in Italy on August 3, 2011, and the Naples court had to consider his extradition. On August 124, he was released from custody. According to Melnichenko's lawyer Nikolai Nedilko, "Italian prosecutors saw no reasons for his extradition to Ukraine."

The Interpol bureau in Ukraine noted that the extradition procedure was continuing.

After the so-called cassette scandal Nikolai Melnichenko fled abroad. He has stayed in the USA recently.

Earlier, Melnichenko published the audio files he had made in the office of former President Leonid Kuchma during his official and unofficial meetings with a number of top politicians. A number of these files were related to the high-profile criminal case over the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Gongadze disappeared on September 16, 2000. Two weeks later, his decapitated body was found in a forest near Kiev. Alexander Moroz, the then speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, ordered to publish Melnichenko's audio files which allegedly confirmed Kuchma's involvement in the disappearance of the journalist.

The authenticity of the recordings has not been proven up to date, and Kuchma flatly denied his involvement, as did other top officials. In 2011 and 2012, courts of various levels ruled to drop the criminal prosecution of Kuchma over alleged involvement in the journalist's murder.

Yanukovich: Ukraine development was hindered over the Ghonghadze’s killing and Cassette scandal

August 23' 2011


he economic development of Ukraine was hindered over the killing case of Georgian journalist Giorgi Ghonghadze and the scandal with cossets in 2003-2004 yy. Viktor Yanukovich said this in connection with the 20 years anniversary of Ukraine at the official ceremony. 

He noted that the economic development dynamic in the country reached its poke in 2003-2003 yy. At this time it was still possible to make a wonderful basis for the future modernized changes.

"The world society namely in these years started to precipitate Ukraine as a future Center for the Central Europe. The well being of the citizens was growing and this was reflected in each Ukrainian family. We had a chance to seed up the success, if not the tragic death of Georgian journalist Giorgi Ghonghadze and the so-called scandal with the cossets which were the cause for the long fight without rules for the power, "- the President said.

Yanukovich said that ineffective politics system often unfair justice, the corruptive public officials were hindering to the development of the country.

For information, journalist Giorgi Ghonghadze was killed in 2000. In 2008 three internal ministry's employees were charged with the murder case. The alleged Pukach head of the criminal group was arrested in 2009. The Ukraine media informed at that time that in this case the Ukraine high ranks were involved.

Ukraine: Ex-President Charged with Journalist’s Murder

March 24' 2011


The circumstances of Georgiy Gongadze’s death became a national scandal and a focus for protests against the government of the then President, Leonid Kuchma, in 2000.

During the Nixonesque ‘Cassette Scandal,’ audiotapes were released on which top officials of the Kuchma administration are heard discussing the need to silence Gongadze for his online news reports about high-level corruption.


80 journalists signed an open letter to President Kuchma urging an investigation and complaining that:

“during the years of Ukrainian independence, not a single high-profile crime against journalists has been fully resolved.”

Journalist Georgiy Gongadze was found beheaded in a ditch in a suburb near Kiev.

Now, 11 years later, Ex Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has been formally charged for “giving illegal orders to police that led to the death of Gongadze.”

“I have been served with charges… “I have not yet read them from beginning to end,” he said in televised remarks, capping off the week-long probe into the incident.

Prosecutors opened the criminal investigation after ruling that an audio tape that incriminates Kuchma could be submitted as evidence, and barred him from leaving the country.

Kuchma responded by saying, “this is nothing new.”

Kuchma has been linked to at least two other cases of murdered journalists during his presidency from 1994-2005. In this sense, ‘No, Mr. Kuchma, this is NOTHING NEW.”

'Tapegate' business remains unfinished

September 2' 2004

Boldanyuk & Tsvil

Scandal could reveal yet more duped by recordings isappearance of journalist Georgy Gongadze, the Prosecutor General’s Office has announced the completion of an analysis conducted by a squad of international forensic audio experts on 30 hours of recordings made in President Leonid Kuchma’s office during 1999 and 2000. According to a Lithuanian member of the working group, Dernardas Shalna, two specialists from Russia and three from Ukraine used $850,000 worth of new phonoscope equipment to conduct the analysis, which is unlikely to clear up the mystery surrounding recordings implicating the president in a host of crimes, including the murder of the muckraking journalist.Audio experts from the European Academy of Forensic Science and European Network of Institutes (ENFSI), and Kyiv’s Institute of Forensic Science took seven months to complete their study. “The report is done and we expect to receive the conclusions soon,” said PGO spokesman Serhiy Rudenko, who on Aug. 30 would not say how, when or if the results would ever be made public.

Tapegate reduxThe release of a 24-minute analog tape on Nov. 28, 2000 by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz triggered Ukraine’s worst political crisis in history. The cassette contained a dozen excerpts of digitally recorded conversations mentioning Gongadze, who disappeared on September 16, 2000. Moroz has claimed repeatedly that he received the snippets from former presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko on Oct. 15, 2000 two weeks before the journalist’s decapitated corpse was found outside of Kyiv. Melnychenko and his family fled Ukraine on Nov. 26, 2000 with a new computer and a bag of CDs containing recordings made in Kuchma’s office. The ex-guard said that he made all the recordings single-handedly using a pocket-sized digital recorder placed underneath the president’s couch. The United States granted Melnychenko refugee status on April 12, 2001 two days after he was questioned in Prague by three agents from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Learning to typeBusinessman and entrepreneur Volodymyr Tsvil took the ex-guard to the Czech Republic at the invitation of Socialist Party supporter Volodymyr Boldanyuk, a Czech citizen, who hid the guard for four and a half months. Melnychenko’s audio archive – comprising some 35 CDs containing an estimated 700 hours of recordings – was kept separately by Boldanyuk, who periodically brought discs to the ex-guard to be transcribed and analyzed. The discs remained with Boldanyuk after Melnychenko flew to America on April 15, 2001. Tsvil told the Post that Melnychenko spent the first two months in hiding learning how to type. He said he first used a computer only to play back the recordings, which he transcribed laboriously by hand.The transcripts are incorrectly dated and filled with errors, indicating that Melnychenko was either tin-eared or completely unfamiliar with the voices on the recordings in question. By January 2001 the ex-guard had only copied and pasted some 30 hours of digital recordings, which he turned over to Socialist Party member Mykola Rudkovsky.Copies of these recordings on Feb. 1, 2001 were given to the International Press Institute (IPI) and later made public through an Internet project funded by Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.An additional 30 hours of Melnychenko’s audio files later appeared on, a site created in September 2002 by former parliament deputy Oleksandr Zhyr.While in hiding, Melnychenko frequently mentioned the name of a close friend, Semen Savchenko, who allegedly “worked with” him on the recordings in Kyiv. Savchenko fled Ukraine to Portugal on Nov. 10, 2000. He has not returned.

SBU gets copiesFew who covered the sensational ‘Gongadzegate’ and ‘Tapegate’ scandals in 2001 and 2002 questioned the reports which ignored recordings made in the president’s office after Gongadze disappeared.“All 700 hours of recordings – especially those made after Sept. 16, 2000 – need to be examined to assess whether Kuchma masterminded Gongadze’s murder or was set up to take the fall,” says Olexiy Stepura, who has worked with the Post to dig up and corroborate new facts about the case. Boldanyuk and Tsvil said that in May 2002 they gave copies of 20 of Melnychenko’s CDs to the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) hoping that they would better enable officials in Kyiv to protect the country’s remaining secrets and find those who orchestrated Gongadze’s disappearance.SBU spokespersons on Aug. 31 refused to confirm or deny whether they received the CDs, referring the Post to the Prosecutor General’s Office for comment. None was forthcoming.

Selling the archiveTsvil, who has been in touch with Melnychenko over the years, accompanied the ex-guard at meetings in January 2004 with Ukrainian officials to negotiate terms for bringing the entire audio archive back to Kyiv. The most recent rendezvous took place on Feb. 24, 2004 in Vienna with presidential assistant Serhiy Levochkin and presidential administration security director Volodymyr Lyashko, who brought $500,000 as an incentive.“The offer was not accepted,” Tsvil told the Post, which on Aug. 13 published photographic evidence of Melnychenko’s meeting with State Security Service (SBU) agents after the rendezvous.

Analyzing it allThe Post has obtained and listened to the IPI and recordings, which do implicate top officials, including Kuchma, in various crimes, including the unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Sloviansky Bank founder Borys Feldman, harassment of government critics and other shenanigans, including vote rigging during the 1999 presidential election.The 60 hours of audio files also contain sensitive information about Ukraine’s sales of military hardware abroad, the state of the country’s law enforcement and intelligence services, and the State Tax Administration, as well as invaluable facts about relations between Kuchma and important foreign leaders. The audio files do not, however, contain conversations indicating that Kuchma specifically ordered Gongadze to be kidnapped or murdered. Such conversations may – or may not – be contained in the 640 hours of unreleased recordings that follow Gongadze’s disappearance.

Opposition politicians, including presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz, have been less than eager to assist Stepura or the Post in their on-going investigation of the facts. Moroz, who knew in early 2000 that Melnychenko was bugging Kuchma’s office, refused to comment. His Socialist Party colleagues, meanwhile, confided to the Post that their leader has “fallen out of love” with the scandal he inspired.Melnychenko, like Moroz, also has refused comment, and in August threatened to sue the Kyiv-based E-zine Hlavred for publishing Tsvil’s recollections about his role in the affair.Even Hrihory Omelchenko, the parliament deputy currently chairing the ad hoc commission “investigating Gongadze’s disappearance and other crimes,” appeared less than eager to pursue new leads, including previously unreleased and untranscribed audio files obtained by the Post in Munich this summer. “I’m all booked up now,” Omelchenko said when offered to examine the new recordings. This is another article in a series made possible by support from The Danish Association for Investigative Journalism. The Kyiv Post retains full publishing rights for these articles and is not influenced in any way by the DAIJ.

Putin dodges Ukraine scandal

February 12' 2001

The case of a murdered journalist is causing political ripples in Russia, reports Amelia Gentleman

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Russian president Vladimir Putin's assessment of the angry mood in Ukraine on the eve of his summit with his beleaguered counterpart Leonid Kuchma was carefully worded with exquisite tact.

As thousands of protesters marched through the streets of the capital Kiev - brandishing banners accusing the president of the murder of an opposition journalist and baying for his resignation - Mr Putin chose to play down the crisis.

Acknowledging that he was aware of the "acute political problems" troubling the government, Mr Putin argued that the furious uprising was merely a sign of healthy democratic society in action.

"There is nothing special in the fact that an internal political struggle is underway," he said, as crowds chanting 'Ukraine without Kuchma!' gathered in the city centre. "I think this is a sign of a normal democratic society."

Mr Putin has contrived to avoid coming face to face with these manifestations of democracy in his meetings in Ukraine today. Instead of convening in Kiev, the two leaders met in the smaller, quieter city Dnipropetrovsk, a safe 300 miles south of the capital.

Anxious to prevent opposition activists sabotaging the meeting, security officials emptied the streets, prompting locals to complain that they had not witnessed such feverish police-orchestrated document checks since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr Putin's visit to Ukraine comes as an unprecedented political crisis unfolds for the country's political leadership. The question of whether the "Kuchmagate" cassette scandal fits into Mr Putin's vision of a "normal democratic society" in operation remains a moot point.

Over the past few weeks, left and right wing opposition groups have come together to call on the president to quit. Mr Kuchma's political future has been under threat since late November when a lurid scandal erupted involving a series of foul-mouthed secretly taped conversations and the discovery of the corpse of missing journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Recordings made by a presidential bodyguard (who placed a dictatophone under the president's sofa) were released to the press. They revealed a sequence of highly damaging conversations in which the president apparently ordered his senior officials to "dispense with" Mr Gongadze - the editor of a Ukrainian internet newspaper focusing on political and financial corruption.

A headless and gruesomely disfigured corpse was discovered in a shallow grave in the woods near Kiev last November, and was later identified by the journalist's family as Mr Gongadze.

Last week, the prosecutor general confirmed that the voices on the tapes are genuine, but the Ukrainian president continues to insist that he was framed and has accused journalists of spreading "fairy tales" about him.

On Saturday, Mr Kuchma sacked Leonid Derkach, the head of the Ukrainian secret police, who was also implicated in the Gongadze affair, in an attempt to placate his critics.

Opposition activists welcomed the decision, but insisted Mr Kuchma himself must be the next to go. The newly-established Forum of National Salvation is calling for Mr Kuchma's impeachment and is working simultaneously to "put an end to the criminal regime, establish truth and law, and direct Ukraine to a European path of development."

Officially, today's the bilateral talks between the two presidents steered clear of the scandal, although aides indicated that the subject was discussed at an informal supper late on Sunday night.

Instead, the two men were set to sign a series of agreements on energy, space and economic relations. Mr Putin said that his trip was a reflection of Russia's desire to maintain close relations and indicated that, in spite of political crisis, Moscow would not "pause in its cooperation with Ukraine".

There was speculation, however, in the Moscow press over how much longer Russia's cooperation with Ukraine will be done through the intermediary of Mr Kuchma, with several commentators suggesting that Kremlin officials were already starting to build covert relations with possible successors to the Ukrainian president.

"Ukrainian experts unanimously state that, in such a situation, Russia should not be betting on Leonid Kuchma alone. They believe that the Kremlin will soon be developing contacts with his possible successors in the event of an impeachment," the liberal daily newspaper Sevodnya declared.

Some analysts have argued that Mr Putin's visit represented a show of support for his Ukrainian counterpart, but political commentator Alexander Dergachev argued: "Moscow is interested in preserving control in Ukraine -with or without the help of Kuchma.

"Moscow will be looking for a replacement." Possible successors to the president include, he said, the leader of Workers' Ukraine, Sergei Tigipko, or the current prime minister Viktor Yushchenko.