Ukraine: Ex-president charged over editor's murder

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The Independent Online

Leonid Kuchma, the former Ukrainian president, has been formally charged over the murder of a journalist in 2000 and could be jailed for up to 12 years if convicted.

Mr Kuchma, who was leader of independent Ukraine between 1994 and 2005, is accused of involvement in the killing of Georgiy Gongadze, one of his sharpest public critics.

The death of the journalist, who was also well known on television talk shows, became emblematic of the sleaze and violence of post-Soviet Ukraine under Mr Kuchma and led to street clashes in Kiev between protesters and riot police.

Emerging from questioning in the prosecutor's office, Mr Kuchma, 72, told reporters: "I have been charged. On Monday we will meet here again and we'll see how things develop further."

The general prosecutor's spokesman, Yuri Boichenko, confirmed that Mr Kuchma had been charged with abuse of office, leading to the death of the journalist, which carries a jail sentence of between five and 12 years. Mr Kuchma has denied any role in the murder of the 31-year-old campaigning editor.

Gongadze was found beheaded months after being abducted in September 2000, when Mr Kuchma was in power.

"I categorically disagree with every charge, except the part which says that I am Leonid Danilovich Kuchma. This is beyond question," he said yesterday.

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